Huntsville, Ala. ---- Following a period of recording and documentation of information on facilities, Alabama A&M University, through The Sizemore Group, presented fundamentals of a master plan to the public during a 50-minute information session at the AAMU Wellness Center Thursday, October 10.
Facilitators noted throughout their information-gathering process the recurrence of certain themes from various individuals and groups. Among the themes and suggested must-haves included the development of a master plan that takes into account and further establishes the campus as a research community, replicates older buildings, promotes a stronger entrance, emphasizes quality over quantity, and develops a unifying theme among the buildings.
In addition to designing for significant campus enrollment growth, the plan prepares for a focus on the areas of science, engineering, business and agriculture, while fostering a sense of community and activating both The Quad and The Block.
However, the team also had an array of challenges and directives, among them the concentration of future growth to the east side of the campus; enhancing street views and the pedestrian experience and removing non-effective physical assets.
The AAMU campus was designed in the early 20th century by the noted legacy firm of Frederick Law Olmsted. According to The Sizemore Group representatives, the Olmsted firm, with a classical, pastoral concept, created “a great foundation” that used the natural terrain to create harmony.
In assessing the current structures, Sizemore placed existing buildings in one of four distinct categories. Category 1 consisted of those buildings deemed worthy of long-term preservation. Category 2 listed buildings considered for preservation to a lesser degree. Category 3 structures included ones with some historical and aesthetic merits but with limited potential. Finally, Category 4 facilities were candidates for removal or replacement.
AAMU President Andrew Hugine, Jr., praised the efforts of The Sizemore Group. He noted, however, that any structures recommended by the team for removal form only “a recommendation” upon which the administration must evaluate and make a final decision in the future.
Some future growth can be absorbed, added the planners, by returning online a number of existing facilities that are not being used, as well as repurposing others. Presenters also encouraged AAMU constituencies to consider placing historical markers to preserve the significance of the current sites, as well as structures no longer existing, such as the Green Bottom Inn, Slave Block and others.
Although significant construction (new residence hall, student center) was not outlined, the plan did call for more points of entry and parking areas, consolidation of instructional spaces toward the heart of the campus, renovation to the McCalep Vocational Building, and the removal of structures considered non-effective, such as the Gravitt apartments, old campus police building, carpentry building, etc.
Adequate steps toward the fulfillment of the master plan could be achieved through bond issue, fees and other revenue, HBCU capital financing loan program, and even FEMA, stated the Sizemore representatives.
- Jerome Saintjones