Anticipating What's Next

February 28, 2008

While it may seem that construction around campus is slowing down, the planning for the University's future never stops. Baylor's leadership is continually evaluating the campus master plan, which attempts to map out how the university landscape will grow and change in the coming years.
"The master facility planning process combines the good ideas from faculty, departments, institutes and students with top-down coordination and direction from the administration and produces a plan that tries to synergize all of that in terms of what's possible," says Dr. Reagan Ramsower, BBA '74, MS '76, vice president for finance and administration. "The process and plan should not be understood as being what will be, but more of what could be, and provide direction to all of us about what to work on to move forward."
"We are the beneficiaries of the wisdom of those who came before us and who imagined all that Baylor might become," says Baylor President John M. Lilley. "Now it is our responsibility to demonstrate the same level of foresight and plan not only for Baylor's campus needs five years from now, but fifty years from now."
In the short term, officials hope to be able to expand the Glennis McCrary Music Building to accommodate the entire School of Music. That, in turn, would free up space in Waco Hall for the history and religion departments that are currently cramped in Tidwell Bible Building.
Another goal for the near future is to create a new home for Baylor's clinical psychology and communication services and disorders programs. Both programs are in renovated spaces (Ivy Square Shopping Center and Neill Morris Hall, respectively) that need to be razed and that don't really fit the programs' needs as they provide services to not only the University but also to residents of Waco and surrounding communities. 
"Those are just a couple of examples of things that we're looking for," Ramsower says. "Which ones do we do? That will be entirely dependent on our ability to identify donors and gifts to support those projects. Some pieces of the plan can come from funding through the operations of the University, but the vast majority of it must come from funding made available by folks who provide gifts to Baylor for the implementation of those ideas."
Those involved in creating and updating the campus master plan have to look at both the immediate future and the long term--as far as 50 years into the future. That's a difficult task, considering that half a century ago, Baylor's campus essentially stopped at Fifth Street to the north and Eighth Street to the south.
"I think looking at a map from 50 years ago and looking at the campus today is a good place to start, just to open up your mind enough to realize what can in fact happen in 50 years," Ramsower says. "Once you allow yourself to be that visionary, then you begin to think, 'What would happen if Baylor grows that much? Where would we grow, and how would we grow?'
"You try to unfreeze your thinking from what we typically focus on--what's next--and you start to say, 'We can only imagine what's next.' But long term, lots of things are next, and those ideas and dreams are possible if we start planning for them now. Our aspirations to be a top-tier research institution will provide a lot of impetus to those developments."
As campus continues to grow, it is likely that Baylor's borders may expand south to 12th Street, east to LaSalle Avenue, and north across the Brazos River. A research park is among the many possible additions to campus.
A new student union building could be added, as well, as the center of campus shifts north. Ramsower says the basement, first, third and fourth floors of the Bill Daniel Student Center could then by repurposed for academic use while leaving the second floor as it is.
"When we looked at the cost of expanding the current student union building, because of all the remodeling and everything that goes into that, it was actually going to cost us $2 million more to remodel the existing building than it would to tear it down, build it back up just like it was and expand it. So we wondered, 'Is the current location where we want it to be?' With the recent additions of the science building and McLane Student Life Center, we see the center of campus shifting a bit north from where the current center is."
Other likely future changes to the Baylor campus include:

  • a new visitors center at the intersection of University Parks Drive and I-35;
  • improvements along Waco Creek;
  • more pedestrian malls and community spaces; and additional and remodeled on-campus residential facilities.

But don't hold your breath for an on-campus football stadium. Ramsower says that while it would certainly be nice to have a stadium on campus, the prohibitive cost is tough to swallow, and such funds could probably be better used for scholarship endowment or other needs.
Despite all the change, visitors to Baylor will almost certainly still recognize the campus in, say, 2058. They just might be reminiscing about when Brooks Village and the Baylor Sciences Building were new.