Campus Planning

Executive Summary:
Spring 2001 Update

Campus Master Plan

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction and Summary*
  2. Key Issues and Constraints*
  3. Primary Goals*
  4. Fundamental Concepts*
  5. Implementing and Institutionalizing*

*Click on the text to go immediately to that section

The Western Michigan University Master Plan, at the initiation of President Elson Floyd in 1999, was developed under the leadership of Mr. Robert Beam, Vice President for Business and Finance; the Department of Campus Planning, Ms. Evie Asken, Director; and the Campus Planning Council of the Faculty Senate (renamed Campus Planning and Finance Council, Fall 2000).  The Campus Planning and Finance Council reviewed and accepted the final draft of the Master Plan in October, 2000.  It was presented to, and accepted by, the Faculty Senate in November, 2000.  The Master Plan was accepted by the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees in December, 2000.

One of the first actions to result from the discussions and recommendations of the Master Plan was to rename the South Campus as the Oakland Drive Campus , and to designate the Lee Baker Farm property, the site of the new College of Engineering building and the Business, Technology and Research Park, as the Parkview Campus.  The Summary and Technical Reports for the Master Plan will reflect these changes, as will all future University documents.

I. Introduction and Summary

In the fall of 1999 President Elson Floyd charged Vice President Beam to initiate a process to develop a Master Plan for the physical development of the Western Michigan University campus. Master planning consultants SmithGroup JJR of Ann Arbor, Michigan, were contracted to provide the Master Planning services for the University. The organization, process and schedule were determined in discussions between the consultants, Mr. Beam, Evie Asken, Director of Campus Planning, and the Campus Planning Council (of the Faculty Senate).

Campus Planning Council members and the Department of Campus Planning staff formed the core of the Master Planning Process.  The Master Plan became the top agenda item for the Council for the duration of the process.  Regular Council meetings were suspended in lieu of the Master Plan workshops and meetings.

Three Focus Groups were established to address and represent West Campus (all areas of Main Campus west of Stadium Dr.), East Campus (those areas east of Stadium Dr. and north of Oliver St., including historic East Campus buildings) and Oakland Drive (South) Campus (those areas east of Stadium Dr., south of Oliver St., north of Howard St., and west of Oakland Dr.). All outlying University properties, non-contiguous with the Main Campus, including the Parkview Campus, were not included in the scope of the Master Planning Process. Individual master plans for development would be generated for each of these areas as needed. The Focus Groups memberships were balanced to represent all the campus constituencies. Each contained at least two members of the Campus Planning Council (two of the Groups were chaired by a CPC member), and representatives from non-Planning WMU staff and faculty, the AAUP, students, the Department of Campus Planning, and the community. The Advisory/Policy Committee, which reviewed and set direction for the Process, included a member of WMU's Board of Trustees and representatives from the City of Kalamazoo.  A complete list of participants is found in both the Technical and Summary Reports.

The Master Planning Process relied on four methods of receiving, sharing, discussing and evaluating information. There was constant interaction between SmithGroup JJR and the Department of Campus Planning, which provided all information and support needed by the consultants to conduct the process.  The regular, formal visits to campus involved meeting with established focus groups and committees, conducting interviews with individual and special interest groups, and holding Open Campus and Open Community meetings. A website,, was developed to display current planning materials and analysis, meeting and schedule information, and other, general information related to the Master Planning Process.   The web was also used to send preview materials to the members of the Focus Groups and the Advisory/Policy Committee.  Articles about the Master Plan, and campus visit information were distributed regularly to various media on and off campus, and the Bernhard Center Dining Room bulletin board contained the latest plans and information relating to the Master Planning Process.

The Master Planning Process was formally organized around a series of nine “campus visits”, conducted by the SmithGroup JJR consultants, which occurred between February, 1999, and March, 2000.  Each visit built in layers upon the information received in the previous visit.  In the early visits time was spent with broad topics and regional issues. Each successive visit dealt with more detail and specific campus issues.  The website contains a timeline of the campus visits, and illustrations of the materials presented at each visit.

The last campus visit occurred in March, 2000. Over the next several months the SmithGroup JJR team assembled the final materials of the Master Plan, including a Summary Report and a comprehensive Technical Report.  The final version of the Master Plan was presented to the Board of Trustees at the December, 2000, Board Meeting.  The completed documents were published in 2001.

While only specifically addressing the WMU Main Campus in Kalamazoo, Michigan, it should be understood that these guidelines for physical organization and development are relevant to any University property.   In addition, a Master Plan for the new Parkview Campus was completed in the summer of 2000.

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II. Key Issues and Constraints

The physical condition of the grounds, buildings, and facilities at Western Michigan University changes continuously, both in planned and unplanned ways.  A Physical Master Planning Process enables planned change that accomplishes the University's goals and missions, and minimizes the amount and the impact of unplanned changes.

The following WMU campus issues were cited as critical to establishing the framework for planned change. Discussion of these issues during the Master Planning Process led to the development of the Goals and Fundamental Concepts:

Campus Issues
Building stock dating from the 1960's and before.
Changing academic and student mix; increased diversity.
Increased dependence on automobile.
Relocation of programs to new campuses.
Railroad line and major roadway bisecting cause.
Neighborhood relationships.
Athletics facilities locations.
WMU identity—diluted by previous growth.
Wayfinding and circulation (pedestrian and vehicular) problematic.
Changing, often stricter, code requirement.
Changing housing needs.
Changing technology.
All season usability.
All-campus accessibility and ADA code compliance.
Inefficient road system.
Inadequate transit and non-motorized systems.

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III. WMU Master Planning Guidelines: 
      Primary Goals

The following Goals, developed as a result of the Master Planning Process, are intended to guide future campus development:


Create a "sense of place".
Identify, emphasize, renew and build on the special features that constitute the spaces of the Western Michigan University campus.


Develop academic "communities".
Develope a unified campus with viable parts.  Create West, Oakland Drive, and East Campus "communities".


Organize the campus zones.
Assure a people-friendly campus.  Simplify the campus into zones that are easily identifiable, accessible and manageable for pedestrians and vehicles.


Plan a four season campus.
Aim for a friendly, year-round campus that imparts a different vital spirit with each season change.


Develop the campus edges.
Design the campus edges to be physically identifiable yet friendly and sensitive to the urban fabric.   Make the campus “front door” a positive experience.


Think ahead.
Plan for and protect future development opportunities, responding to the demands and changes faced by educational institutions in the 21st century.

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IV. WMU Master Planning Guidelines:
      Fundamental Concepts

The Fundamental Concepts grew out of the need to have a set of planning “patterns”, with which every major development project would comply.


Protect the Valleys
Preserve and promote the Goldsworth and Arcadia Valleys.  Enhance natural features and restrict building development.


Develop Campus Edges and Entrances
The University is to be easily identifiable.   Develop/plan visually significant campus approaches, arrival areas, entries and edges.


Create Campus Activity Hubs
Create activity hubs for the campus community, centrally located and visually distinct, with core open space, facilities and amenities to attract students and visitors.


Connect the Campuses
Maintain and enhance visual and physical connections between campuses.  Improve circulation and accessibility.  Protect potential connection points between campus areas.


Develop Districts
Identify and develop districts that reflect a distinct identity or character, share a common function, or are self-contained in some way.  Buildings are to relate to one another, both physically and through common or related functions.  Maintain building massing, patterns or grids, density, height, and aesthetic values that are appropriate to each district.


Preserve Open Space
Plan future development to optimize use of space and preserve open space.


Distribute Housing
Distribute housing throughout the campuses.  Serve a variety of housing needs and markets.


Ensure Wayfinding and Accessibility
Create friendlier campus with upgraded signage, informational kiosks, and improved vehicle and pedestrian circulation, particularly at entrances and approaches to University.  Plan compliance with ADA accessibility guidelines, and four season access to all campus areas.


Distribute Parking
Distribute parking around campus perimeter to be easily accessible from main roads and near principle centers of use.  Plan transit interface and pedestrian routes to destinations.


Plan Alternate Forms of Transportation
Plan safe and efficient mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian circulation on-campus.

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V. WMU Master Plan:
    Implementing and Institutionalizing
    the Master Plan

The endurance and success of the WMU Master Plan depends on its continued review and interpretation within the University's planning, development, and governance processes.  The Master Plan is to be implemented by the Administration which is obligated to involve faculty and students through regular and ongoing consultation with the Campus Planning and Finance Council.


Planning Division of Facilities Management; Mail #5313
Western Michigan University
1903 W. Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo MI 49008 USA
(269) 387-8543 or 387-8544 | (269) 387-8818 Fax


Shipping Address:
Planning Division; Facilities Management
Campus Services Building

1201 Oliver Street

Kalamazoo, MI  49008