Campus Master Plan Updates Highlight Potential Growth, Redevelopment

By Bianca Cseke | September 10, 2017

UNLV’s campus master plan update shows officials are still figuring out what exactly will go on the 42-acre land parcel the university purchased for $50 million in 2015 and how little progress has been made on the Midtown UNLV project.


The plan, which was last updated and approved by the NSHE Board of Regents in December 2015, outlines short and long-term strategies the university has for physical development, including plans for a 42-acre lot on Tropicana Avenue that UNLV purchased to create some breathing room for its land-locked campus.


Although one option for the site would be a stadium for UNLV, this isn’t likely to happen because of the Raiders’ stadium being planned about three miles from the university, officials said at Thursday’s NSHE Board of Regents meeting. UNLV plans to share that stadium with the Raiders.


UNLV President Len Jessup said he is “hesitant to write off the contingency of a stadium on the 42-acre site until shovels are in the ground” at the Raiders’ stadium Russell Road location.


Also at play are the requests set by the Clark County Department of Aviation on what kinds of structures can be near McCarran International Airport. A letter the department sent to Jessup and Dean Gould, chief of staff and special counsel to the Board of Regents, shows it wants the stadium option removed from the master plan and “close coordination” on all other potential development of the land.


“Off-airport land use compatibility planning is a very fluid topic within the airport industry, especially with stadium-type structures and the congregation of large crowds,” the letter read. “Additionally, it is uncertain how future development within the area can be accommodated knowing the existing roadway system is overtaxed.”


The other option that UNLV proposed for the barren lot on Tropicana Avenue was a campus village, which would feature retail shops, entertainment, residential housing and room for graduate programs and other departments that don’t necessarily need to be on campus, such as kinesiology and entertainment engineering, according to the master plan document.


UNLV’s overall goal, regardless of what is done with the land, is to meet its Top Tier initiatives by 2025, according to a briefing document prepared by the university.


Part of their construction goals for Top Tier is Midtown UNLV, a university initiative to revitalize the corridor of Maryland Parkway between Tropicana Avenue and Flamingo Road. The project, which has been ongoing since 2005, has faced numerous stumbling blocks, including a lack of resources, that have led to few developments since it was conceived by former UNLV President Carol Harter.


Regent Cedric Crear expressed some concern about the lack of progress.


“We keep talking about Midtown UNLV, but nothing seems to happen,” he said.


“We share the frustration about fits and starts,” David Frommer, UNLV’s chief planner, replied.


Jessup added that the pace of development is dictated by the market, namely when business owners are willing to sell their properties.


Frommer emphasized the continued role that public-private partnerships will play in Midtown UNLV in adding to the progress that has been made so far.


In April 2015, UNLV purchased the University Park Apartments on Cottage Grove Avenue and entered into a public-private partnership with developer Midby Cos. to create The Degree, an apartment-style community for students. Developers advertised the community would be ready for move-in by Fall 2017, but students who had put down deposits received notices over the summer that construction wouldn’t be completed until summer 2018.


The newest parking garage near campus, located on Maryland Parkway across from the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, was also the result of a partnership with a private entity.


Local developer Frank Marretti bought the land that would eventually house the garage in 2013 and wanted to create something that would benefit UNLV, he told the Free Press in 2016. The second phase of the project, called the University Gateway, will feature retail, office space and new headquarters for UNLV Police Services.


The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada has also been discussing adding a light rail that would link UNLV with McCarran International Airport, the Las Vegas Medical District — where the new UNLV School of Medicine will soon be housed — and downtown Las Vegas. The Nevada Legislature passed a bill in June that allows the RTC to search for funding for the project, according to notes on the Legislature’s website.


Other items in the nearly 40-page campus master plan include options for expanding buildings belonging to the fine arts, engineering and science departments, as well as the Student Union, campus malls and open spaces.


Much of the space needed for such expansions will likely come from the space that will be left behind when the Environmental Protection Agency vacates its building near Lied Library after its lease expires in September 2020, the Las Vegas Sun reported in May. UNLV officials and former U.S. Sen. for Nevada Harry Reid had been hoping to get a new building for the EPA on campus, but the agency will instead consolidate the lab with operations in other states.


Campus Master Plan Sept 2017

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