Pedestrian mall will increase green space, change traffic patterns

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Artist's rendering of WMU pedestrian mall.

Artist's rending of the new West Michigan Avenue pedestrian mall and water feature.

KALAMAZOO--Construction around the new Sangren Hall will soon result in more changes to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Additional construction fencing will be going up beginning in March as the University continues work on the $69 million Sangren project, which includes creation of a wide pedestrian mall in front of Sangren that will dramatically increase green space in the heart of West Campus.

The West Michigan Avenue pedestrian mall will permanently eliminate the existing roadways and parking lot between McCracken Hall and the new Sangren. When completed by the time fall classes start, the area will be a broad green space sporting a water feature that mimics a flowing creek and two new walkways that will extend all the way to the West Campus Promenade by the Lee Honors College Building.

The walkways will be separated by lawn areas, with the west-end lawn being suitable for lounging and staging events and the east-end lawn being heavily landscaped. That landscaping will showcase granite pavers and slabs salvaged from the former Upjohn Co. world headquarters and will be used in the planned water feature.

Parking Lot 49, which runs in front of the new Sangren and provides access to the University Computing Center loading dock, will become part of the pedestrian mall. The project also will disconnect South Hayes Drive from West Michigan Avenue and permanently eliminate most of Parking Lot 50 (parking for disabled persons will be added) in front of the Seibert Administration Building. The entire area will become a convergence of green space, sidewalks and a vehicle turnaround, which will force drivers to circle back east on West Michigan or enter Parking lots 68 or 69 in front of Henry Hall.

"Putting in the pedestrian mall, reconfiguring West Michigan and Hays, and finishing the new Sangren Hall is a five-month project that we have to get done in three months," says Pete Strazdas, vice president for Facilities Management.

"We've been consulting with all major campus stakeholders and are scheduling as much work as possible over spring break and the summer I and II sessions. We've tried to minimize disruptions, but there will be disruptions."

What to look for when walking and driving

Foot and vehicular traffic will increasingly be affected as work on the overall Sangren project progresses and construction-fencing boundaries change. The remaining work will be completed in five phases starting March 2 and ending in summer 2013.

March 2 through 11

  • The southwest corner of the current construction fencing will be temporarily expanded while a portion of mall walkway is laid. Until spring break ends, pedestrians will need to skirt the fencing to get to the West Campus Promenade and cars will have a different access to the UCC loading dock via Wilbur Ave.
  • A section of Parking Lot 41 behind Sangren will be fenced off for several months to house construction trailers that will be displaced by the pedestrian mall project.

March 12 through April 29

  • The expanded fencing that went up during the previous phase will shrink. Pedestrians will have a straight shot to the promenade for the rest of spring semester, but from now on, the UCC loading dock will be accessible only from Wilbur Avenue across a reinforced sidewalk.
  • Because loading dock traffic will cross paths with pedestrians, only commercial vehicles and UCC employees with handicap permits will be allowed to park at the dock. Travel across the sidewalks should not happen during class change times. Other center workers and patrons will eventually be able to park in the new lot to be installed on Sangren's the north side and walk to the building.

April 30 through May 13

  • Fencing will be greatly expanded on the east side of the existing construction zone as well as its southeast corner. Signage showing new sidewalk routes for pedestrians will be installed around the West Michigan entrance to campus.
  • Henry will be inaccessible by foot from the entire west side.
  • West Michigan will dead end at the stop sign on Archer Drive until late August, and South Hays Road will be permanently disconnected from West Michigan.
  • Pedestrians traveling to the promenade will be able to go north and south on Gilkison Avenue. Those approaching from West Michigan will need to go around or through Seibert, walk up South Hays past McCracken, and then zigzag their way past Kanley Chapel and UCC.
  • Seibert's lot 50 will close and lots 68 and 69 will mostly close until late August. An equal number or more of the handicap spaces in lots 50 and 68 will be permanently moved to a section of lot 69, with this section being accessible from both Archer Drive and West Michigan during the remaining construction phases.
  • All of Parking Lot 48 behind Bernhard will be open only to visitors until late August to accommodate scheduled admissions tours, unscheduled visitors to the admissions office and parents participating in summer orientation. In addition, Lot 69 will have a few parking spots for unscheduled visitors.

May 14 through Aug. 24

  • When the summer II session starts, one of the two mall walkways should be open, making it easier to get to the promenade and buildings along the south side of the mall.
  • Faculty and staff will move from the old Sangren to the new Sangren during early August.
  • Construction will progress on the new Sangren and pedestrian mall, with both scheduled to be open just before the end of the summer II session.
  • By the time students start coming back to campus for fall, all sidewalks as well as lots 68, 69 and 48 should be reopened and the construction fencing removed from around the new Sangren.

Sept. 4 through summer 2013

  • Old Sangren will be demolished and replaced with a new and expanded parking lot.
  • Fencing will remain around the old Sangren until this final phase is complete.

Safety key consideration in West Campus makeover

Artist's rendering of WMU pedestrian mall.

Car-pedestrian congestion will be eliminated.

West Campus will not only be more attractive when the overall Sangren Hall project ends, but safer, as well.

The planned vehicle turnaround by the Bernhard Center will eliminate most of the car-pedestrian congestion that now occurs at the end of West Michigan and that used to occur along the road when it bisected West Campus.

West Michigan was made into a dead end near the administration building for safety reasons in 1973. Instead of driving straight through West Campus, traffic was routed around it via the extension of Howard Street between Stadium Drive and West Michigan.

"One of the focuses of our Campus Master Plan is to make WMU more pedestrian friendly and therefore safer. We're continuing to encourage drivers to use the Ring Road and to park in outer lots, then walk or bike to campus buildings," says Associate Vice President Strazdas.

"We have a limited amount of space to work with, particularly on West Campus. Even without the pedestrian mall project, it's physically impossible to park right next to most buildings."

He adds that an equal number or more of the handicap parking spots that are available now will be available during and after Sangren opens to the public.

Although general parking will not be allowed at the UCC loading in the future, he notes that the number of handicap parking spaces there has increased by four and that the new Wilbur Avenue route to them should reduce the number of pedestrian and vehicle conflicts.

Only UCC employees with handicap stickers and light commercial traffic will be allowed on the widened, reinforced sidewalk leading to the dock. Most University and commercial vehicles will use the route early in the morning and avoid using it during class changes.

Visit the pedestrian mall project website for updates and maps for each phase of construction. Questions about changes or possible changes to specific walking and driving routes should be directed to WMU's construction office at (269) 387-8543 or Bob Lopez, construction administrator, at robert.j.lopez@wmich.edu.