RWU administration gives update on campus master plan


Chloe Noyes

John Amitrano discusses the Timeline with Ayer Saint Gross at the Virtual Town Hall

On Wednesday Oct. 26, the Roger Williams University administration held a webinar to discuss the Bristol Campus master plan for the next five years.
To begin, President Ioannis Miaoulis said that it was critical for the university to have a good master plan to benefit both students and faculty research. However, Miaoulis added that in order to have a good master plan, the university must also have a good strategic plan to the logistics of new buildings and what will be occuring in the campus community.
The main motivations of the changes the master plan will make are primarily to stay competitive for prospective students by building new dorms, social spaces and taking advantage of Bristol’s scenery, said Miaoulis.
The president’s Chief of Staff Brian Williams then transitioned into a reflection of how much the campus has grown since 1964.
In his research, Williams said he found that the university had property in Warwick that would have severely impacted what the programs RWU is known for such as the sailing program and marine and natural science programs.
According to Assistant Vice President of Facilities & Capital Projects, John Amitrano, the most recent recent master plan was proposed in 2016, and of the 25 projects proposed, eight were completed, some of which include the expansion of Bayside 4, the Willow exterior rehab, and the SECCM Experimental Lab Building, among others.
RWU partnered with outside consultant Ayer Saint Gross in May of 2018, said Amitrano.
However, Amitrano said this planning had to be put on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19 and strategic planning efforts. As a result, the university was granted a one year extension until September 2022 by the town of Bristol for the plan to be submitted. To finalize the 2022 plan, Amitrano said the Board of Trustees helped to make final decisions on the locations of future buildings in February 2022 at the RWU Plenary. Additionally, the 2022 plan had continuity with the previous plan, proposed in 2016.
The town submission to the town of Bristol will have logistics such as the amount of parking, the height of buildings, the utilities usage, among others, said Amitrano.
Amitrano finished the beginning of the presentation saying that on Nov. 10, there will be a public hearing in Bristol for the community to weigh in on the plan.
Williams then began to discuss the building priorities that will occur between 2022-2027.
These changes will include the construction of a new residence hall, a new student center and academic renewal, said Williams.
Regarding the new residence hall, Williams said that it would have a capacity of 350-400 students and include a mixture of living and learning spaces.
Williams also said that the creation of a new residence hall would allow the demolition of Maple Hall to make space for future buildings.
Williams said that the demolition was inevitable simply because of the layout of the building, and there would not be an easy renovation to make the building useful.
The goal of the new residence hall is to connect north and south campus, and it allows for RWU to make decisions about the off campus dorms, Baypoint and Almeida, as well as address Title IX and the current conflicts that have resulted in baseball and softball sharing outfields, said Williams.
The new center is estimated to be at least 75,000 gross square feet, and a space usable by all, said Williams.
He also said that the center would include a multicultural center, a wellness center, and consolidate student services such as admission, financial aid, the bursar and registrar.
The proposed location of the student center is to the east of the Recreation Center, at the current parking lot and mail center, said Williams.
Williams said that the design process for new spaces as well as the backfilling of open spaces will begin in the spring of 2023 and that it would be an inclusive campus process.
With all of the future construction, Amitrano discussed the sustainability efforts the university is going to put into place during the building process.
These efforts include sustainable construction through indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, sourcing materials and resources locally and using renewable energy, said Amitrano.
Provost Margaret Everett then discussed the academic renewal portion of the masterplan.
Everett began by saying that the beginning focus of the academic renewal is going to be on general use classrooms.
Everett said that they are going to assess the usage and quality of the classrooms while also assessing the capacity of the classrooms with the goal of putting the right class in the right space at the right time.
This assessment would allow for a more strategic updating of classrooms which would allow for the best impact on both students and faculty, said Everett.
Through the data collected about the sizes of the classrooms at RWU, Everett said that there are too many extra small, large, and extra large classrooms, and to remedy it, they are looking for ways to redistribute classes as well as the possibility of removing some furniture in overcrowded classrooms.
To renew classrooms, Everett said that the classrooms will be organized into categories in regards to how much renovation they will need which will help the administration to come up with a ballpark price.
Everett then discussed a six year academic renewal plan which will begin in 2024 fiscal year which will include upgrading furnishings and “quick wins.”
Six general use classrooms between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Marine and Natural Science buildings will be updated, said Everett.
Everett transitioned, and announced that RWU had received the EL Wiegand Foundation Grant.
This 750,000 dollar grant was proposed by the SECCM and Gabelli School of Business Administration, and will allow for the creation of a Design Thinking Studio in the School of Business and a Data and Modeling Studio in the school of engineering, said Everett.
Williams then began to provide some closing statements and said that master planning is a connection between classroom and building.
Williams also said that RWU is in the process of hiring an architecture firm for designing the new dormitory and students center, and that the firm will be chosen by Spring 2023.
President Miaoulis closed the presentation by saying that he was privileged that the university is in a wonderful location and is looking forward to the future of RWU.