Committee announces new master plan for STAR campus
After months of protests from Newark citizens and a subsequent unanimous Faculty Senate vote that critiqued the university’s plans to partner with The Data Centers LLC (TDC), the university decided to change course.
The university found cause not only to end its agreement with TDC in July, but also to revise the “master plan” for STAR Campus.
Members of the STAR Steering Committee introduced the revised master plan to community members Wednesday evening in Clayton Hall and held a subsequent meeting Thursday in Trabant Theatre.
The previous plan sparked protests throughout the community due to its plans to install a power plant and data center on STAR Campus, which prompted the committee to terminate TDC’s lease.
Amy Roe, a founding member of Newark Residents Against the Power Plant, was in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting. Roe, a former mayoral candidate, helped lead the protests against the power plant last spring.
”I think they’ve tried to sweep it under the rug and ignore that it ever happened,” Roe said.
The new plan focuses on the northeast corner of STAR Campus and will focus for the time being on between 60-70 acres instead of the entire 272 acres as the previous Master Plan had attempted to do. The forgone acreage includes the land that had previously been allocated to TDC.
Alan Brangman, STAR committee chairman and vice president for facilities, real estate and auxiliary services, said the committee’s vision includes creating an urban campus on the site, including everything from an improved train station, bike path, green spaces, parking garages, roads, businesses and the Health Science Complex, which will provide research and internship opportunities for members of the university.
“Our desire is to provide opportunities for our researchers, students and visitors to be able to bump into each other as you’re on the sidewalks in this neighborhood,” Brangman said.
The university is also working closely with the Delaware Department of Transportation to help anticipate and ameliorate the strain on University Avenue where there will likely be over one thousand additional people commuting to and from the site via car, Brangman said.
The committee’s original plan was to recreate The Green on STAR Campus, running east to west. Now the committee has decided to implement pockets of “green space” instead, Brangman said. The university’s goal is to establish a major green space within a five minute walk of anywhere on campus.
The train station and the Health Sciences Complex sites will serve as the main hubs for students, faculty and workers on STAR Campus, he said. Brangman said the rest of the campus will be populated by businesses that fit into the “3+1 plan”: vision, work, learn and live.
One central goal of the committee is to turn the Newark train station into a full-service commuter station. The university must do this before 2018, or it could lose a $10 million federal grant as well as a central feature in the master plan.
The location of the university is extremely appealing to researchers, professionals and potential students, which the committee wants to capitalize on, Brangman said. In fact, the university is the closest major research institution to Aberdeen Proving Ground, a large army facility in Maryland.
“We can get anywhere we want to be in a very short amount of time,” Brangman said. “As far as I’m concerned, Newark is the center of the universe.”
The northeast quadrant alone—between the train station and Health Sciences Complex—is estimated to take around 25 years to complete while the entire site could take up to 100 years to develop, Brangman said.
Since April, university alumnus Rob Gifford has been the city councilman for District 3, which includes STAR campus. Gifford said the the revised master plan is more focused and marks an improvement in the university’s vision for STAR campus.
“I think that it’s more clear what their goals are,” Gifford said. “I like that they want to connect it to the train station and the rest of campus.”
Among one of STAR Campus’ current projects is the Bloom Energy’s Bloom Boxes, which help to provide cleaner natural gas conversion. Other projects include Hydrogen Fuel Buses and charging stations for the university’s fleet of Electric Mini Coopers.
A ten-story building will soon shadow STAR Campus as local developer Ernie Delle Donne announced last November plans to build the STAR building which will be filled with high-tech tenants.
Overall, Gifford is pleased with the new plan.
“I think that it’s good that they’re getting back to basics and looking at their vision for the campus,” Gifford said.
Sam Richter contributed reporting to this article.