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U launches new office for campus planning

The University of Utah is launching a new strategic planning process to guide the next 100 years of campus growth.

With that new planning process, Campus Planning in the division of Planning Design and Construction (PDC) will move to the Office of Real Estate Administration, led by Chief Real Estate Officer John Creer. Facilities management and construction will remain with Chief Facilities Officer Robin Burr.

“As we plan to grow our student body to 40,000 students, double our research funding and impact the community and state around us for the better, we need to do it in a thoughtful and strategic way,” said Taylor Randall, president. “I believe as we focus these efforts in one centralized planning and development office, we will be able to develop and implement best practices as we plan the campus of the future.”

The new department will be called Physical Enterprise Planning and Development and will consolidate the strategic planning, master planning, campus planning and real estate functions (including public-private partnerships, property acquisition and development) of the university. The office will serve and coordinate planning for all major segments of campus—academics (including health sciences academics), athletics, health care, housing, research and auxiliary functions (including parking and transit).

John Creer

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“This realignment is part of a greater effort to bring the university together to develop a strategic master plan that advances the big ideas we need to help us effectively manage the physical growth of our campus over the coming decades,” said Creer.

Creer said part of that “big thinking” includes planning for projects that not only span the university’s current Salt Lake City campus but anticipate continued statewide and global growth. Projects in the near term include the transformation of Fort Douglas into a housing and campus hub, reimagining and acquiring Research Park buildings and spaces, the development of satellite academic campuses in partnership with peer institutions like the Herriman campus shared with Salt Lake Community College and new healthcare projects in West Valley City and Vineyard in Utah County.

The university has hired planning and design consultants NBBJ and Arch Nexus to guide an initial, 14-month master planning process. At the same time, the new Physical Enterprise Planning and Development department will implement a rigorous project approval and planning process that creates consistency by applying the same standards to all projects from inception to completion, Creer said.

The goal is to make sure each piece of land acquired or building built is part of a greater campus community and makes sense for the entire institution. Through a centralized campus planning process that focuses on a holistic whole, Creer hopes to minimize one-off projects that can lead to unforeseen negative impacts on the rest of the institution—including increased traffic and safety issues or limits on future housing, athletic or academic projects.

More information about the master planning process will be shared with campus in the weeks and months ahead.