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 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.