Tulane University is considering a series of renovations to major buildings and moving some of its parking out of the center of its Uptown New Orleans campus, according to a first draft of a master plan newly required by city law.
The city’s new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance requires that all major institutions — such as universities and hospitals — create an official master plan to be vetted by the City Planning Commission. Once the commission and City Council approve the plan, with any modifications deemed necessary, the plan will effectively become the zoning for the institution — it will be able to develop its campus according to the plan, but will require city permission to change it.
The plan must include descriptions of the size and location of all the buildings expected on the site, as well as consideration of traffic, parking, landscaping, loading, stormwater and other issues. For example, Children’s Hospital was granted permission to tear down some of the old buildings on the former New Orleans Adolescent Hospital site last year, but officials told them that they would not be able to begin construction on the new parking or clinic space until their Institutional Master Plan is approved.
Tulane has developed according to an internal master plan since its founding in the 1800s, said Paul Harang, Tulane’s director of neighborhood relations. But as the university creates a new version of that plan to conform to the city’s standards, Tulane officials convened a meeting Thursday night to give neighbors a first look at the plan and hear any of their concerns.
Compared to the major projects of the past few years on the Uptown campus — the football stadium, the new Zimple House dorm on Broadway, the additions to the library — the projects Harang described ahead are more modest in scope. They include:
- Construction and expansion of the dining hall, giving the center of campus a more “town center” type of feeling, Harang said. (Demolition of the former Newcomb College dean’s home was a precursor to this project.)
- Renovations to Dixon and McAlister halls, which together host the majority of major events on campus. Harang said university officials are considering making McAlister the “prime” venue for those events.
- Renovations to Newcomb Hall, a major academic building, and “Building 9” in the academic-services area.
- Renovations of some student housing buildings.
- Shifting some parking away from Newcomb Place, the center of the Uptown campus. Tulane has the opportunity to lease more space in the Loyola parking garage to move these cars, Harang said.
- Renovations to the Reilly Center, especially the locker area, which could require some temporary space outside the building.
- Improving a service road that runs behind Calhoun Street, in part to help move vehicles toward that Loyola garage, and to take some campus traffic off Calhoun.
- Reworking underground utilities to improve stomrwater runoff, particularly in the academic services quad behind Gibson Hall.
Most of the ideas in the plan are still very preliminary, Harang said.
“None of these are set in stone,” Harang said. “We’re just here to talk about ideas.”
Harang’s presentation drew little reaction from the neighborhood, as Thursday’s downpour began shortly before the meeting was to start — more Tulane staffers than neighbors attended it. More meetings will be held as the university approaches the filing date for the plan later this year, including an official Neighborhood Participation Plan meeting where the university will formally document public comment.
“From the limited information I saw, it looks to me like they are primarily doing renovation of buildings and other minor changes that won’t really affect the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Keith Hardie, a neighborhood activist from the university area.
One resident near the edge of campus, Jack Dardis, said he was more concerned by the students who gather near his home to smoke as a result of the university’s new non-smoking policy than he was by any of the changes proposed in the master plan. Dardis said he plans to continue watching the plan as more details are revealed in the upcoming meetings, however.
“I guess we just wait till the spring then,” Dardis said.