The Cunningham Group’s Darryl Pratte discusses MSU’s latest plans for campus-wide improvements

By Chris Houck

Minnesota State University, Mankato is an institution that goes through many changes in any given period of time.

Whether they are changes in staff, curriculum, or the face of the campus itself, there’s always something to establish or introduce to the college community, with the campus master plan at the forefront of many of the changes that may happen.

MSU had its Campus Master Plan Open House on Wednesday, showcasing many of the changes that the Cuningham Group has recommended to the university.

Darryl Pratte, a Project Designer and Planner with the Cuningham Group of Minneapolis, was at the open house, explaining many of the facets that come with working with an institution like MSU.

“We’ve looked at open space issues related to vehicles, traffic, bicycles, pedestrians, landscaping, sustainability, and the buildings as well,” said Pratte on the process of finding ways to improve on an entity like MSU.

The Minnesota State Colleges and University system requires that its institutions have an update to their master plan every five years, and MSU showcased its own, updated vision during the open house.

MSU Assistant Vice President Ron Fields was also at the open house, explaining what it is like for the university to work with the Cuningham Group.

Fields noted that the school’s position on the recommendations are decided through interaction with the Cuningham Group’s steering committee, as well as over 50 meetings with groups, services and IT.

The event, which was held in the Centennial Student Union invited students, staff, and faculty to come to the open house and ask the facilities consultants any questions or address concerns regarding the future of MSU’s campus.

“We’ve had input from student groups,” said Pratte on the plans that the Cuningham Group unveiled. “We’ve had input from faculty, we’ve had input from a task force that was a group set up to review all of the issues we’ve done, individual interview with the deans, [and] with the facilities folks. So it’s kind of a culmination of a lot of information.”

The open house displayed several different utilities that are being considered, highlighting many of the changes the university may experience in the coming years.armstrong_online

In the 0-9 year draft displayed at the open house, details of a proposed College of Business building was shown, as well as a Clinical Sciences building, a sports bubble located next to the football fields, and a new Carkoski Commons building.

Pratte detailed the priorities of the Cuninham Group’s recommendations, saying, “The top three are Allied Health Clinical Sciences, the School of Business, which would be attached to Morris Hall and the new Carkoski commons, which would replace the existing one. I would say those three are the next three ideas in the next five-year planning.”

The university’s website also contains details of an older 20-year master plan that was submitted.

The plan gave details a removal of Armstrong Hall and the inclusion of transit hubs, which, according to Pratte, may include things like parking structures, waiting stations for shuttles, and coffee shops.

Pratte explained some of the topics concerning Armstrong Hall in previous Master Plans, saying, “Some of the open space issues even the desire to get rid of Armstrong Hall [were considered]. This master plan really tries to address enhancing Armstrong and bring an addition to it to provide good spacing in the core of the campus.”

Open spacing was a big aspect of the Cuningham Group’s recommendations, in order to provide a more free flowing campus.

“In terms of enhancing the pedestrian experience,” said Pratte, “It would be to turn some of the roads that divide the residential areas from the center of campus, into pedestrian roads, maybe allowing some service vehicles and shuttles to come through.”

While at the open house, Fields said that not all of the ideas submitted to the university will, most likely, be accepted.

Fields did, however, stress the importance of interaction between all parties to the success of MSU and its campus, as well as inviting students to utilize the comments form on the school’s Master Plan page on its website to better understand what is wanted at the university.

“I think the general idea of master planning is that we’re here to really consolidate the major ideas from all of the groups of the university,” Pratte said.

“It’s our role to promote the vision that has been established here. And I think that’s what makes it an interesting job for us, because it’s our interaction with the people that really informs the project and the outcome.”

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