Skip to main content

Campus Master Plan Map(PDF version of this document)

In 1998, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hired the Baltimore architectural firm of Ayers Saint Gross to create a new Campus Master Plan to guide its physical development into the next century. The Master Plan, approved by the University Board of Trustees in March 2001, builds on the strong precedent of planning at Carolina. One notable example is the plan for Polk Place, prepared in 1920 by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, which established the dimensions and scale of the greens and surrounding buildings. Over a 40-year period, the University followed the plan, resulting in one of the most beautiful campus quadrangles in America.

In 1997, interest in creating a new Master Plan arose from concern that development at Carolina was straying from its historic roots. And soon after work began on the plan, two decisions by the UNC system reinforced the need for it.

First, the UNC system announced significant enrollment increases for all 16 campuses, and soon after began planning for a November 2000 statewide bond referendum for higher education, later passed overwhelmingly by North Carolina voters. Passage of the bond meant that $500 million in funds would be available for new construction and renovations. With funding available to turn plans into reality, the importance of the Master Plan became even clearer.

From the outset, University leaders directed that the plan reflect the mission, spirit and culture of the University. Over three years, hundreds of people in more than 500 meetings worked on the plan. Through this engagement, faculty, staff, students, administration and campus neighbors helped create this new blueprint for the University’s future.

From Carolina’s founding in 1793, downtown Chapel Hill has been the front door of the University. The Arts Common, a district for studio and performing arts, will extend from the Ackland Art Museum and Hill Hall on the north to Playmakers Theatre on the south. Existing buildings will be renovated and expanded and new buildings constructed. The Arts Common will enhance the University’s connection to the town and beautify its face on Franklin Street, while providing new and renovated classrooms and venues for the arts.

View of proposed Arts Common
Carolina has a culture of collegiality and collaboration that cuts across disciplines and is absolutely critical to its national leadership in research. Located between Cameron Avenue and South Road, the Science Complex will create a physical environment that fosters the highest level of interdisciplinary research and teaching. The project will include the demolition of Venable Hall and the Naval ROTC building and the construction of a series of new buildings with up-to-date laboratories, classrooms and offices. The Science Complex will provide Carolina with both modern buildings to accommodate the highest-quality research and indoor and outdoor gathering places to encourage interaction among scholars.

View of proposed Science Complex
The Bell Tower project exemplifies many of the key ideas of the Campus Master Plan. The physical core of the Bell Tower project will be a 1,000-car parking deck built into the bowl of the existing Bell Tower parking lot. Research buildings will ring the deck, and the top of the deck will be a landscaped quadrangle crossed by walkways. These walks will connect to the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center and, by a bridge over South Road, to a new science building between Dey Hall and Wilson Library. The Bell Tower project will literally bridge the physical divide between UNC Hospitals/Health Affairs and Academic Affairs.

View of proposed Bell Tower project
In the 1960s, North Carolina Memorial Hospital reoriented its front door away from campus to face south. This change, combined with program needs that require larger buildings and a steep topography that makes walking more challenging, weakened the pedestrian connection between UNC Hospitals and Health Affairs units with the rest of campus. Enormous growth in patient care and in world-class research creates an urgent need for new buildings and parking to serve the clinic and hospital-based patients who come from all across the state for Carolina’s outstanding medical care. The Master Plan sites new buildings that will meet these critical needs, and at the same time, create small quadrangles that work with the topography, improve the outdoor environment and establish clear pedestrian corridors from the UNC Hospitals/Health Affairs area to the rest of the campus.

View of proposed UNC Hospitals/Health Affairs area
In its early years, Carolina was a campus where people lived, studied, worked and played in one place. The Master Plan aims to bring this livability back to South Campus by siting new academic buildings and residence halls between the Dean Smith Center and the existing high-rise residence halls. New mid-rise buildings will enclose courtyards designed to enhance connections between buildings and people. Student housing and academics will mix here, and the placement of these buildings will continue the Carolina tradition of living and learning in close proximity.

View of proposed South Campus area
Four principles guided the development of the Master Plan:

1. Support Carolina’s mission.

The physical form of the University should enhance Carolina’s mission of teaching, research and public service.

2. Export the qualities of McCorkle and Polk places.

The low stone walls, brick walks and natural landscaping of McCorkle and Polk places are the physical essence of Carolina. Extending their graceful balance of buildings, open space and trees to developing areas of campus will improve the University as it grows.

3. Enhance the University’s intellectual climate.

A rich intellectual climate is based on connections. Connecting the humanities with the sciences, academic life with residential life, health care with academics, the campus with the town and the built environment with the natural environment will foster a vibrant intellectual community.

4. Support local and regional planning strategies.

As the Research Triangle area grows, local communities grapple with transportation, housing and environmental issues. The University’s future growth should support local and regional planning strategies dealing with growth issues.

Looking north from Swain Hall toward Franklin Street
Looking east from the Carolina Inn toward Polk Place

Environmental Strategy – Connecting the built and natural environment

The natural landscape at Carolina has always been valued by those who live and work on campus and by visitors who are drawn to its beauty. Participants in the Master Plan looked at the campus as a whole and especially at the condition of its natural systems. This holistic approach has influenced the design process for all future building on campus. Whereas in years past the campus was developed on a project-by-project basis, the Master Plan establishes campuswide recommendations for keeping Carolina’s natural systems healthy and reducing the University’s environmental impact on the larger community. A commitment to no net increase in stormwater runoff signifies a major shift in Carolina’s environmental practices. Building sites that respect steep slopes and other sensitive land areas are identified. These new policies and design criteria protect the natural environment while identifying sites and methods of development that will accommodate Carolina’s growth.

Transportation and Parking Strategy – Connecting Carolina to the region

The Master Plan ushers in a new transportation strategy at Carolina. The goal is a pedestrian-friendly campus where people find it easy to walk or bike. To accomplish this, transit service will be increased, parking will be put into decks and the number of students living on campus will be increased.

Getting to campus without a car will become easier. Local and regional transit service to campus will be expanded. Existing park-and-ride lots will be enlarged and new lots built. Bicycle facilities will be improved. A corridor for the Triangle Transit Authority’s proposed regional transit service between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill is included in the Master Plan. This regional connection will become more important as collaboration among the three research universities – Carolina, Duke University and North Carolina State University – increases.

The look of parking will also change. Campus parking is now primarily in surface lots. The Master Plan consolidates surface parking in decks, freeing the surface lots for building sites and greens. Overall, 20 acres of land currently paved for surface parking lots will be transformed into 10 acres of green space and 10 acres of buildings. Parking will increase by 3,000 spaces on campus; the additional spaces primarily for use by visitors and patients at UNC Hospitals and campus clinics.

The Master Plan also identifies locations for a significant increase in student housing. Four new residence halls that will house almost 960 students are under construction along Manning Drive. New student family housing will replace the 300 units in Odum Village, and an additional 1,000 units of undergraduate housing is planned. More students living on campus decreases the number of students dependent on cars to get to campus.

Looking west from the Bell Tower toward Beard Hall
Looking north from South Chiller Plant toward UNC Hospitals
Looking west toward Kenan-Flagler Business School

The Campus Master Plan – connecting to the past as it reaches into the future

The historic core of the campus inspired the Master Plan. These ideals of the campus founders – beautiful but simple lawns set off by low stone walls and brick walkways that connect people and places – will be seen in the Carolina campus of the future. The Master Plan meshes the critical pieces needed for smart growth in the 21st century – transportation, parking, housing, utilities and environmental sustainability – with the program needs of a growing campus. The Master Plan combines the practical requirements of a research university with the beauty that inspired its founders. Carolina will grow dramatically in the coming years. With the Master Plan, that growth will improve the way campus works and extend Carolina’s historic legacy of beautiful buildings and grounds to every corner of campus.