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Redefining KU's Skyline for Greater Discovery

November 30, 2015

Updated December 5, 2015

Faculty, staff, and students:

The Thanksgiving holiday gave us all an opportunity to reflect on our individual good fortune and blessings. We can also be grateful for recent developments that will allow the University of Kansas to excel well beyond its first sesquicentennial.

In mid-November, the Kansas Board of Regents gave KU approval to proceed with the next stages of Central District redevelopment. A final review by the Regents' Fiscal Affairs and Audit Committee sets the effort in motion. The three-year project offers transformational upgrades to the Lawrence campus that benefit the entire university. These new spaces, facilities, and infrastructure will expand Innovation Way and propel KU further into the next 150 years.

Designs for people and progress

The new Integrated Science Building will be a distinguishing feature of the Central District and Innovation Way. Finding a balance between teaching and research, the ISB will house new chemistry teaching labs that help ensure students have access to the latest techniques while also allowing students to see research advances in the same building. A clean room suite will allow more researchers to pursue cutting-edge efforts related to two new research centers ­­— focused on life sciences and materials science — contained in the structure. As practices and pursuits change, researchers can easily outfit and reconfigure the flexible-design labs. A 350-seat auditorium will enable departments to host conference presentations when not in classroom use.

In October Student Senate approved fees to help construct a new union to replace the aging Burge union. The new design includes a large ballroom for events and conferences. Meeting rooms with flexible configuration options provide a solution to the limited-use floor plan of the Burge. Like the Burge, the new union will offer space for student programming and services as well as a permanent location for a reflection room for all students. The new union’s location next to the ISB will help students and faculty see research on display and envision new collaborations that span disciplinary frontiers. 

A new parking facility, infrastructure improvements, and a power plant will ensure KU can handle the increased traffic and activity. The power plant will relieve stress on the aging North District plant and provide needed redundancy on campus.  It will also include a classroom for students interested in and studying power generation. Planners are working on traffic flow to the parking facility and power plant, which will be located near the Hilltop Child Development Center, to keep the safety of Hilltop students and their families the top priority both during construction and long into the future.

A new residence hall, dining facility, and graduate student apartments will help accommodate the changing needs and living expectations of students. The location of the planned 540-bed residence hall and 700-bed apartment structure will give students easy access to all three districts of the Lawrence campus.

Fiscal approach for the future

The Central District project is entrepreneurial as well as innovative. It will be funded through a combination of savings realized through Changing for Excellence, growth in enrollment, some student fees, support from alumni and friends, and business and revenue-generating aspects such as parking and student housing.   

KU will use a progressive financing structure that is growing in popularity among public universities. It helps colleges deliver major improvements at a lower cost and prepare for the future despite shrinking state budgets. KU will pay off the $350-million project over a 35-year period. Using this distinctive financing structure — sometimes called a public-private partnership, or P3 — the university owns the property and structures but provides lease payments that cover construction and operations and maintenance costs of the developer. KU will be able to realize cost savings through economies of scale as well as begin using all the improvements in three years or less.

From Central District to central hub

Students and alumni often recall they knew the University of Kansas was where they belonged the first time they set foot on campus. By 2018, we will transform a long-overlooked section of the KU campus to reach a fuller potential. Through KU’s Campus Master Plan even more of the Lawrence campus will become a hub of living, learning, discovery and professional growth for students, faculty, and staff.

This revitalized and enhanced skyline will signal to great minds around the world that KU is the place to be for advancement and innovation.

Bits and Bytes

  • During December, the Edwards Campus will host several live streams of 1 Million Cups KC presentations. Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, 1 Million Cups strives to educate, engage, and connect aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • Faculty members are encouraged to review entries in Faculty PRO to ensure they are discoverable. It is especially important for faculty in liberal arts to add presentations, exhibits, and performances that aren’t part of readily available databases.
  • Several units on campus are advancing the recent town hall effort by holding forums for their students, faculty, and staff. Here are a few happening today:
    • School of Education: Open forum for students, faculty, and staff, 3:15 p.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday, November 30, in 247 Joseph R. Pearson Hall
    • School of Business: Open forum for students, faculty, and staff 4 p.m., Monday, November 30, in 427 Summerfield Hall
    • School of Social Welfare, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Monday, November 30, Price Computing Center.
  • Upcoming lectures in the Bold Aspirations and Visitor Lecture Series include:
    • Rolfe Mandel, Inaugural Distinguished Professor Lecture, on the topic, “The Peopling of the Central Great Plains Near the End of the Last Ice Age: A Geoarchaeological and Paleoecological Perspective,” at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, December 3, in the Summerfield Room of the Adams Alumni Center.

As the fall semester nears its end and the holiday season offers us more opportunities to celebrate and reflect, I want to wish you good luck in your studies, endeavors, and travels. Please celebrate safely. For those of you finishing your studies this semester, congratulations and best of luck! All of us are incredibly proud of your effort to become the newest Jayhawk alumni.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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