UNCG master plan met with opposition

Students and other attendees at the first of two forums about UNC Greensboro's master plan today raised repeated questions about the wisdom of implementing expensive plans designed prior to the worldwide economic collapse in 2008, particularly a $91 million recreation center. 

Sue Dennison, an associate professor of social work, said the center would come with a 30-year mortgage, a fact that concerns her when enrollment is down and is projected to decline further. A spokesperson for UNCG said the recreation center was initially designed in 2006 and that student fees have been set aside to contribute towards funding the project for three years.

"We are in different economic times right now [than when the plans were created]," she said. "We're attracting working-class students. It concerns me that this seems to be a train that's left the station."

Several students —including Dillon Tyler, Emma Troxler and Juan Miranda — expressed similar concern about the impact of the rec center on tuition and fees for working-class students. Miranda asked numerous questions, several of which went unanswered, about the funding and need for the center.

"Education should be our core," Miranda said. "It should be our number one. It seems like the forefront of this [plan] is not about education."

Miranda argued that student fees increased 42 percent since 2010 and said reduced programs and teaching positions watered down the quality of UNCG's education. Troxler said she doesn't see the educational value of a recreational center compared to other potential priorities. Several said they were concerned the master plan amounted to little more than window dressing.

Miranda said the school isn't making sufficient effort to involve students in planning discussions and decisions. Students were not informed about a master plan meeting in the spring and that an announcement about today's forum only circulated yesterday, he said, contrasting this with widespread information about UNCG's homecoming. Other audience members agreed. [YES! Weekly received a press release last week]

The presentation by Sasaki Associates touched on the recreation center, which would be part of the university's expansion into the historic Glenwood neighborhood south of Lee Street, but focused more on alterations to Lee and Forest Streets.

An older proposed redesign of Lee Street (slides from today weren't immediately available).
Several attendees expressed concern about the level to which Glenwood residents would be shut out by the plan, both at the recreation center and more broadly. The concern isn't new — a 2010 master plan presentation by firm Lord Aeck Sargent about community feedback said the "rec center has no perceived value to Glenwood if public access is not allowed" — but UNCG Associate Vice Chancellor Mike Byers said the school is confident they will be able to provide limited access to nearby residents.

Several ground-level spaces in new campus buildings along Lee Street could be used as educational or meeting space, presenters said, but when asked if community organizations could meet in such a space similar to a room at a library branch, a UNCG spokesperson said the only planned community meeting space would be at a new police substation along Lee Street. A few attendees laughed at the idea.

Community member Bulent Bediz said after the meeting that UNCG's process hasn't been transparent or involved community input. Like some other attendees, he said he opposes plans to make Lee Street more like Spring Garden. The proposed master plan would create a median with trees along the thoroughfare and try to emphasize two major pedestrian crossings at Glenwood Avenue and for the recreation center.

Sasaki presenters stressed the need to reintegrate the Lee Street and Glenwood properties back into the rest of the campus through changes on Lee Street, transforming the underpass into a "Spartan Corridor" for alternative transportation, providing shading along Forest Street, shielding the train tracks from view and sports fields and a glen south of Lee Street to continue the school's emphasis on green spaces.

Not all attendees spoke against the planned recreation center in Glenwood. Student Government Association President Crystal Bayne and a current rec center fitness instructor said the project is a much-needed resource for students.

The plan did not address the proposed downtown university district that would involve UNCG, but Byers said the school is still as committed to the project as it can be at this time. There is no space for UNCG's forthcoming doctorate nursing program on campus, he said, and the idea would be to include it in a downtown campus in conjunction with other Greensboro colleges and universities.

The second presentation will be held today at 6 p.m. in the Alexander Room on the ground floor of the Elliott University Center. 


تريكا said...
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تريكا said...
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Brian Higgins said...

The problem with citing the Lord Aeck Sargent presentation is that the presentation was specifically about capturing the comments and feedback they had heard from the community. It was NOT their recommendation.

Jordan Green said...

Brian: I think that's what the reference to the Lord Aeck Sargent presentation does in this article — captures the comments and feedback heard from the community. I don't see where this blog post purports to say that what the presentation's recommendation was.

Brian Higgins said...

Jordan. I disagree that the article makes that clear. It does not clarify that the LAS presentation was a representation of neighborhood concerns and not a master plan recommendation. Opponents point to that presentation as a way to imply UNCG said they were going to do one thing but are doing something else.

Brian Higgins said...

Further, Jordan, it doesn't quantify the level of concern. The reality is the same few people have been voicing this concern and Eric has been attending their meetings. The reality is that the rest of the neighborhood has been focusing on working closely with UNCG to create an MOU on the rec center that will represent a way both parties can move forward. You and I both know that you can always rely on the opposition to show up, but that doesn't imply the opposition is widespread. I'm looking for a more balanced report on the situation. I find it ironic that Bulent Bediz - someone who sold numerous properties to UNCG on his own will - now is complaining about the expansion? He facilitated the expansion of the University into Glenwood by selling his properties!

Jordan Green said...

Brian, the article accurately cited the Lord Aeck Sargent presentation and didn't mis-contextualize the information. Your points — based on your perspective as a Glenwood resident — are perfectly valid, and you can effectively make them without taking shots at our reporter. But I agree with you about the irony of Bulent Bidez's carping and think that his statements have to be considered in the context of role as a property owner who has been chronically rapped for letting his properties become run down.

Eric Ginsburg said...

I've been attending whose meetings? UNCG organized this forum. I don't think I've attended any other meetings on this topic since 2010.

The concern about the rec center primarily stemmed from students and a faculty member concerned about how it would impact students (re: cost) which I think this clearly depicts.

I didn't say that there is "widespread" opposition, and this is just a quick blog post intended to report back on what happened at the meeting (and I'm told that the evening session was filled with considerably more opposition). The feedback from attendees was imbalanced which is why this article focuses on that.

I'm interested in reporting more on this issue but as I've told you already, we're in the thick of election season and that's where most of my coverage needs to be focused.

The original LAS citation is accurate, but I will add a little to it so that it reflects your point.

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Brian Higgins said...

Jordan, I wasn't taking shots at Eric, but I've seen him listed as an attendee at the "Don't Rec Glenwood" meetings that has been organizing these protests. Maybe he attended, maybe he didn't. Maybe he's sympathetic, maybe he isn't, but he is at least aware that these "Don't Rec Glenwood" meetings have been occurring.
Eric, you're right you didn't say the opposition was widespread. In fact, the opposition is token, from where I sit. I guess at what point is "opposition" worth reporting would be my question. The protestors have some valid points about the cost of education, but to link them to some sort of nefarious scheme UNCG has perpetrated on the residents of Glenwood is incorrect.

Eric Ginsburg said...

All that your information means is that someone invited me to their events on Facebook. The only two I've been to are UNCG's meeting and the subsequent press conference. Your point wasn't that I was aware the meetings were occurring — of course I am — you said I was going.

I'll be calling you this week because the election will be over and I'll have time to report on this and other issues more in depth.