Representatives of Webster University, Webster Groves and Eden Theological Seminary discussed the university’s finalized master plan at their second collaborative meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25. The finalized plan includes changes that were made to the university’s original proposal due to concerns of the community and university’s faculty, staff and students.
Webster University President Elizabeth Stroble presented the completed master plan at the meeting, which took place in Webster University’s Loretto Hall.
In February 2012, the university and Sasaki & Associates unveiled the master plan proposal for the first time to the Webster Groves community and to Webster University faculty and staff. The university received feedback in those meetings.
During the master plan proposal in February, residents expressed concerns about the university’s expansion across Lockwood Avenue. The same concern about the master plan has been voiced in more recent meetings as well. In the final master plan, Luhr Library will be used to house the Information Technology (IT) department. The rest of the building will be open for “swing space” as other master plan projects are completed, Stroble said.
“Over the past several months, people have said to me, ‘Would you be open to have an art gallery there?’ or, ‘Would you be open to have art classes or could the community use it for meeting space?’ My answer to all of those questions is, ‘Yeah, we can absolutely — together — figure out (what to use that space for),’” Stroble said. “So figuring out what might serve the community as well, we’re very open-minded about.”
Though the university has addressed many concerns regarding the master plan proposal, there were still questions at the collaborative meeting. Greg Mueller, Webster Groves councilmember, pointed out that the university-owned houses along Catalina Avenue are included in the master plan. However, homes in different areas of Webster Groves that Webster University owns are not included in the master plan.
Mueller said he’s heard concerns about future expansion into those areas from the community, and he believes Webster University should address those concerns.
Kathy Hart, Webster Groves councilmember, had some questions regarding the university’s enrollment goals.
“If you want to increase enrollment to 5,000 and everything happens according to plan, do you envision the need to go beyond the boundaries (the master plan shows) for further expansion, or other homes around the university for expansion?” Hart asked Stroble.
Stroble responded that the enrollment goals can be accomplished by using this particular master plan without further expansion in those areas.
When Sasaki & Associates first presented the proposal to the university, it did not include Pearson House. Students, faculty and alumni responded strongly because it is a building with important sentiment to them.
“Our faculty, staff and students said, ‘Is that absolutely neccessary to remove Pearson to execute the plan?’ and it was not, so Pearson House remains in the plan,” Stroble said.
One of the plans in the earlier proposal was to have a way to calm traffic across Edgar Road, giving pedestrians the right of way to cross the street. In the February 2012 meeting, residents voiced concerns about this because they felt it would increase traffic jams.
“The idea of traffic calming ended up being a traffic uproar, so we’ve since abandoned that as early as February,” Stroble said.
Mara Perry, director of planning and development for Webster Groves, gave a presentation about the history of conditional use permits (CUPs) used for Eden’s property and the processes of splitting ownership of lots, specifically Eden’s.
“(The goal was) to make sure everyone is on the same page of the history,” Perry said. “A lot of times, people forget what happened in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and it’s better to have all that information in one place so people can make informed decisions.”
The three entities will further discuss concerns they have about the master plan at their next meeting on Oct. 10, 2012.