December 11, 2011 Leave a comment
by Erin Brock
Several weeks ago, The Rambler reported in a Web exclusive that Transylvania University was in the process of acquiring several properties off West Fourth Street.
This development came after approximately a yearlong focused search for “primarily vacant land,” according to Vice President for Finance and Business Marc Mathews.
The plots of land, located at 523, 551 and 555 W. Fourth St., will receive closure by the end of December. This acquisition adds approximately 10 acres to Transy’s possessions, increasing the size of the 48-acre campus by 20 percent.
“There’s just a lot of things working that make that the ideal spot,” Mathews said. “Nothing’s ideal, because it’s got something on it, it’s got things in the middle of it. … It’s going to take some creativity and imagination.”
While the land’s expected use is for a recreational complex, the location’s exact future will not be known until after June, when the strategic plan and the campus master plan will both be finalized.
The firm that will undertake the campus plan will be decided on in the near future.
“(This firm) helps us draw the vision for what the campus would look like 30-50 years from now,” said Mathews. “Once we confirm that (an athletic and recreational facility) is the use for it, we would hire a planner to specifically design that space.”
Mathews noted that the plan for expansion has been generalized, but that reallocating the current fields, John R. Hall Athletic Field and Thomas Field, would allow for development of other facilities in that valuable downtown space.
“The exciting thing is we have land,” Director of Athletics Jack Ebel said. “It’s also exciting that we can begin to think about, and dream about, what it could be. … With the land they’ve purchased, I can’t envision anything other than athletics. … I see it having a significant impact on the recruiting for the entire campus, because it will be a recreational opportunity. What I would envision is that we’ll be having some athletic teams practicing there, but there will be, just like … in the Beck Center, intramurals going on, club sports, etc.”
According to Ebel, the construction of the Beck Center caused an increase in enrollment, and he suggested that this could happen as a result of this land’s development.
“We need a place for kids to go and throw a Frisbee, just two people, with nobody practicing or anything, just having fun, without running into the volleyball court in Back Circle,” Ebel said.
While Transy has accumulated small portions of land slowly through the years, the restrictions of growth in an urban area have prevented any large land acquisitions.
Mathews stated that Transy’s previous strategy towards growth was to accumulate “bits and pieces” of property, including about 100 more properties in the blocks between Fourth and Fifth Streets and Broadway and North Upper Street during recent years, something first discussed in the Jan. 20, 2011, issue of The Rambler.
The confining nature of an urban setting encouraged Transy to look into several modes of expansion, including purchasing land away from campus and casually approaching the Lexington Legends for potential use of their field.
“We really just opened our mind to any possibility, … but the real goal was to come up with land that was proximate to campus,” Mathews said. “We couldn’t pin our hopes on any one plan, so we had multiple. … We just can’t limit what Transylvania’s going to be by saying we’re only these few blocks of land.”
Mathews believes that this land acquisition has the potential to bring a different feel to Transy’s campus.
“I think over time, we’ll continue to creep down Fourth (Street) and we’ll grow up this way, and there won’t be much gap between Transy’s campus. It will only get better, and I think people will think that’s a short distance after a while,” said Mathews. “I do think with the expansion and renovation of Jefferson (Street) and all of the businesses, and apartments and things down there, if we can kind of claim that in this, it will make the whole campus broader, just by association.”
Ebel agrees that the acquisition can alter the feel of campus.
“This may be a bigger transformative event because we have been so cramped with outdoor facilities,” said Ebel. “I think we can actually look at this as something that could change the whole character of the campus for recreation and athletics.”
Several opportunities related to the development of the land have been brought up, including the potential expansion of the Colt Trolley routes and the possibility of the Legacy Trail adjoining the land and expanding through campus. This is currently a 12-mile walking and biking trail that runs from the east end of downtown to the Kentucky Horse Park.
“We can’t even envision everything that could take place there,” Ebel said.