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Lafayette College Master Plan Draft: Preliminary Analysis

 

June, 2024

Friends and Neighbors,

At a community meeting on June 13, Lafayette College presented a draft of its proposed Master Plan. The atmosphere and listening attitude of the College was a marked change from meetings under the previous President. While we must continue to review with vigor the College’s plans moving forward, I am cautiously optimistic that President Hurd is dedicated to working with the community.

 

Clicking the "Lafayette Website" button will take you to the Lafayette College Strategic Planning page.

 

 

 

 

Clicking on the "Lafayette Strategic Plan" button will take you directly to the plan presentation. 

Major takeaways from the plan and discussions:

  • The master plan’s driving thesis is to bring students currently living in college-owned neighborhood houses back onto the campus. Vacated buildings will be used to expand residential opportunities near the campus for faculty and staff.

 

  • No new buildings are proposed within the College Hill (off-campus) neighborhood.

 

  • A maintenance plan for all of the College’s 150+ off-campus properties will be developed. (More about this below.)

 

  • New dorm construction (on campus, including the south campus on N. Third Street) is intended to improve the quality of student housing and dining. The temporary dorm on campus will be removed within a year.

 

  • On-campus buildings have been analyzed and a maintenance program is being developed. (Departmental space needs have not been examined and included in the plan.)

 

  • The College is negotiating with downtown residential developers to possibly lease new apartments for faculty and staff. (President Hurd does not believe that the college should own all its off-campus housing.)

 

  • Metzgar Field in Forks Township will gradually be developed for athletic and agricultural purposes. (A hotel suggested in earlier plan iterations seems to have been scrapped.)

 

  • The only development proposed for Lafayette’s Bushkill Drive properties is the renovation of the Rinek Cordage facility for use by engineering students.

 

  • A trail plan is being developed connecting the Karl Stirner Arts Walk with the campus, Bushkill corridor, Metzgar Field, etc.

 

  • Enrollment at Lafayette is expected to remain at the current level of 2800 students for the next 10 to 15 years.

 

  • No new academic programs are contemplated. (A recent draft of Lafayette’s ‘Strategic Plan’ confirmed a commitment to focusing on undergraduate education only.)

 

  • The Master Plan is to be developed during the summer, reviewed by all parties and revised again this fall and sent to the Trustees for approval by the end of 2024.

Items which still need to be addressed:

  • Although a maintenance plan for the College’s off-campus properties will be developed, no decision has been made about these properties long-term. The College expressed concern about selling some of the properties because it wants to control the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the College.

 

  • Historic preservation of either on or off campus properties was not addressed.

 

  • Concerns about the deforested College Avenue hillside were expressed, but at present Lafayette does not seem to have a solution to this problem. No mention was made for making the new ramp handicapped accessible or safe for use by cyclists.

 

  • Other than negotiating for off-campus apartments in new downtown buildings, no consideration was given to any community initiatives such as:

  1. Involvement in the West Ward or South Side

  2. Partnering with local organizations to develop affordable housing

  3. Actively locating facilities in vacant downtown buildings

  4. Addressing the ‘dead-zone’ that exists around the campus during the summer.

 

  • No parking analysis was shown.

 

  • Child-care for Lafayette employees, and the childcare facility on McCartney Street were not addressed.

 

Public Comments:

  • It was suggested that a use plan be developed for the Bushkill Drive properties, including lighting and security improvements. (These are not well populated areas and thus not as safe for students walking back at night.)

 

  • Several parking concerns were raised. It was suggested that perhaps more coaches’ offices could be moved to Metzgar, freeing up community parking spaces near the gym that are now frequently used by staff. Also expressed were concerns about parking for local residents for Lafayette activities they would like to attend, spaces that have been lost due to the temporary dorms and McCartney dorms, etc. It was also pointed out that the play area on McCartney, originally promised as a community resource for neighborhood children when not used for the child-care program, is never open to the public.

  • It was suggested that the location of the health center, far removed from most student dorms, is not ideal when it comes to addressing student health care needs.

 

In other news. . .

Regular readers of my notes will be aware that I often whine that two of Lafayette’s major commitments in a 2018 legal action, the settlement of which allowed construction to begin on the McCartney Dorms, have never been implemented by the College. It now appears that both of these will be addressed:

  • The College agreed to develop and implement a maintenance plan for its College Hill off-campus properties. A group to do so, chaired by Audra Kahr, Vice President for Finance & Administration, is scheduled to begin this work in July.

 

  • The College was to implement an Easton Partnership Committee, consisting of college, community and city members, to discuss and oversee developments of mutual interest to all parties. This was to replace a similar group which operated successfully under former president Dan Weiss but was disbanded by former president Alison Byerly. As put together by Chelsea Morrese, Executive Director for Community Engagement, the new group, now called the Easton Area Community Impact Committee, will also hold its first meeting in July. (Full disclosure: I’ve been asked and have accepted an invitation to be part of this committee. I’ve no idea who else is on it.)

 

Please direct corrections, questions and comments to pfelder@rcn.com.

Paul Felder

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