CAMPUS ASSESSMENT OVERVIEW
COLLEGE OF THE MAINLAND (COM) currently operates one large campus in Texas City and several satellite tenant spaces in surrounding areas. As an integral component to any long range master plan exercise, exhaustive research, attention to detail and time must be spent on the current layout and environment of the existing campus. One must fully understand how to proceed with recommendations for altering existing campus fabric when projecting for future growth and adaptation. Over the last eight months, PBK and their consultants have obtained significant details and developed relationships with campus personnel in order to comprehend the positives, challenges, and idiosyncrasies.
College of the Mainland’s campus was founded 50 years ago in 1966. The world was a very different place when the bulk of COM’s building stock was completed. While Clear Creek, Friendswood and Dickinson have experienced a significant amount of growth over the past 15 years, the growth in Texas City and La Marque has remained steady - but at a slower rate. With a lack of capital funds, the college’s leadership team has been forced to look at patchwork options and rental agreements for expansion. They have tried to improve the college’s brand to provide county residents with opportunities for young and old, but in order to continue to do so, a capital improvement infusion is necessary. Due to multiple factors, the college’s physical state remains very similar to the way it appeared in 1970. Over the past two decades, only two new buildings were completed and the only major improvement to the campus in the past 10 years has been a campus-wide restroom upgrade to ensure ADA/TAS Compliance.
Over the last 15 years, the college has watched its annual enrollment fluctuate with the ebbs and flows of the economy. The overall trend has been downward, as aging facilities and public perception have put the college at a growth disadvantage with prospective students. The last six years have seen the college witness a bit of stagnation in student population growth due to a large number of factors. Dickinson, Clear Creek, La Marque and Texas City today show signs of population growth and workforce demand, and over the past 20 years this region has grown but student enrollment at the college has failed to keep pace. COM’s leadership team has had the foresight to take pause during this time in order to pursue a comprehensive long-range master plan (COMPASS) that reflects on current campus infrastructure and analyzes how existing facilities will have to change in order to meet the demands of today’s students. This plan has been conducted while also looking to the future and preparing for growth, as well as the ever-changing student experience and learning dynamics that will be required.
The primary challenge with overlaying a modern college curriculum on an aging infrastructure is that, in a lot of respects, the college has had to make due with a lack of funds while trying to address needs for growth. This has led to numerous decisions being made because something was better than nothing, but the result is a network of misaligned programs and a large number of needs. As determined by college staff, the primary objective for COMPASS is a desire to link the relationship between the physical presence of the colleges’ programs to their curriculum pathways. The pathways are an institutional organization of coursework for each degree, certification, or academic transfer opportunity that cluster students and classes providing a maximum opportunity for success.
OVERALL SITE INFO
College of the Mainland’s main campus is located in Texas City, Texas close to Highway 1744 off Amburn Road. Nestled on 200+ acres of land, it contains seven buildings and one parking garage. With over 370,000 square feet of building space and more than 1,400 total parking spaces, the main campus offers plenty of opportunity for growth. Unlike many community colleges that have a network of smaller campuses, COM’s main campus offers students a wide variety of courses all in one location. From a land perspective, this campus has the potential to accommodate future phases of growth. The benefit of these new buildings should focus on a better student experience, enhanced student life opportunities and be organized around the college’s curriculum pathways.
The planning team visited the main campus and each satellite location to document existing conditions for analysis and impact on future development. The site analysis provided the planning team with an idea of the campus’ carrying capacity for additional facilities. The main campus is large and has an abundance of open space for new facilities; however, there are also concerns for the age of existing infrastructure that requires assessment as well. Finally, the financial situation of the college and the timeframe of COMPASS both require a decision be made for each existing building – for what to keep and what to replace. The analysis and subsequent documentation of the campus includes an examination of the following:
• Existing Buildings
• Service and Core Areas
• Vehicular Circulation
• Parking Lots
• Pedestrian Circulation
• Recreation Areas
Following the site analysis for each campus, the planning team developed a series of map overlays that showed diagrammatically the critical points and opportunities of the existing campus. These diagrammatic studies provided the planning team with the ability to graphically interpret and evaluate the campus. The following considerations were examined:
OPPORTUNITIES & CONSTRAINTS
• Opportunities for New Buildings
• Pedestrian Circulation
• Vehicular Circulation
The analysis provided the College of the Mainland leadership and planning team with some direction in identifying development concepts that emerged as “form givers,” creating the framework that will shape the ultimate plan of each campus.
• Adjacent Land Use
• Primary and Secondary Access Roads
• Perimeter Access Points
TRAFFIC AND PEDESTRIAN PATHWAYS
Primary campus access points are along Amburn Road with secondary access points along Monticello. The vast majority of traffic comes from the 1764 either from the north and 45 or the south and Texas City/La Marque. This also renders the site portal (or ceremonious entry at the library) underutilized, as its location is centered along Community Avenue with all current traffic flow to the south. Due to the unique and unnatural setup of existing surface parking lots and their connecting primary access road, students and faculty alike are often times required to cross major internal roads after parking their cars, increasing the potential for vehicle/pedestrian incidents and diminishing the campus arrival experience. All parking is on a first come basis with no separate designations for students, staff or visitors.
Current pedestrian pathways throughout the campus are clear and easy to navigate. One interesting feature is covered walkways connecting a few of the buildings. One major decision for the college will be whether or not to expand this network of walkway covers. The terrain is relatively flat, so most of the pathways are navigable from an accessibility standpoint; however, with the age of many of these walks (i.e. around the student center), improvements can be made to ensure accessibility. More concrete and brick paver walks will need to be incorporated in order to provide access to new buildings as they are brought online. In addition, a central circulation path surrounding an articulated central plaza could provide an opportunity for these pedestrian paths to provide a place for student life activities and social functions. Campus wayfinding signage on the actual buildings shows the age of the buildings themselves (serif font, weathered condition).
The campus’s central quad/green space is an expansive area of the site containing few trees offering nominal shade. The vast majority of this space consists of Bermuda grass, providing an opportunity to make it a more inviting social space for students and staff. The master plan should seek to simultaneously unify and segregate the campus with landscaping in different areas using different typologies. The central region of the campus can become more unified through creating a large space with a consistent language enclosing it for large student activities and campus events. Separately, landscaping can be used to create small intimate spaces for small group work or individual reflection away from the bustle of campus life. These pockets can flank main paths or be tucked in and around buildings providing flexible areas for use during good weather during class and before and after classes for impromptu study or socializing.
• Drainage Patterns
Utilizing the existing campus site plan, the campus core has a clear shape that can be accentuated. Budget constraints indicate the need to reuse as much of the existing infrastructure as possible. More parking lots are currently in place than the college will require (even with substantial growth); however, the location of the parking can be challenging. A majority of the parking is located away from the buildings offering actual coursework, and one parking lot interrupts the fabric of the continuous campus quad near the TVB building. The central plant offers another advantage to building near the central quad where there is ample space for relatively good sized future buildings to be located.