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Upgrades expected over the next two years
Select areas across NKU’s campus will receive upgrades starting this semester which will help improve the overall aesthetic quality of campus. The plan for this five-part campus beautification process passed unanimously at the Jan. 9 Board of Regents meeting where it was given a budget of $75,000.
According to Director of Operations and Maintenance Ray Mirizzi, people all across campus, including the Board of Regents, have enjoyed this beautification idea so much that they were able to find an additional $25,000 in funding to expand the original $50,000 budget to $75,000 before they passed the plan.
Parts of the five beautification upgrades, the repurposing of light poles to planters near Nunn Hall and the construction of an additional bus stop shelter near the Lucas Administrative Center, have already begun, with all parts of the five upgrades expected to be completed within the next one to two years, said Mirizzi.
The idea for this plan, according to NKU Project Manager for Interior Design Mary Lee Schott, came from an initiative presented by NKU President Geoffrey Mearns during his first semester at NKU last fall.
“Mearns’ initial idea included a $25,000- $50,000 dollar budget and called for the creation of an ad-hoc committee to be responsible for determining the areas on campus in need of upgrades and the most efficient way to address these needs,” Schott said.
According to President Mearns, $50,000 of the budget will come from department contingency funds made available in case of emergency or needs with the additional $25,000 from discretionary funds that the board made available to President Mearns for his transition. However this $75,000 will be dispersed over time and not all at once, President Mearns said.
Campus beautification became a priority for President Mearns after he heard from faculty, staff and students that the appearance of campus needed to be improved. However, President Mearns sees this as “one step in an on-going process to make the campus more attractive,” and not just a short-term process with an immediate beginning and end.
“[It is] important for us, as we think about a broader process for improving and moving the university forward, that we really… remember to engage as many people as possible,” President Mearns said. “The best way to develop the best ideas is to gather as many ideas as possible.”
To engage as many people across campus as possible, a beautification committee was then assembled where Mirizzi and Schott were named co-chairs, alongside several other members with various roles in NKU life, including undeclared senior and building services materials handler laborer Christopher Wooldridge.
“Walking around campus almost everything is concrete,” Wooldridge said. “…It can feel kind of cold or uninviting at times. We wanted to decide what was going to have the most impact… to make things feel more warm and welcoming.”
“The committee found the most popular and impactful idea for beautification to be the addition of student artwork on campus,” Mirizzi said. The committee planned this upgrade to include the placement of paintings in several hallways and sculptures in popular outdoor areas across campus.
According to both Wooldridge and Mirizzi, this addition is a great idea because it has the capability to beautify the campus and bring a sense of lasting community through the showcase of student work having a permanent spot on campus.
The addition of university directories to help with campus navigation was the second upgrade decided on for campus. According to Mirizzi, NKU’s campus can be a somewhat confusing place to navigate for new students, staff and other visitors. Mirizzi, who started his career at NKU within the last eight months, admitted that he had some trouble navigating through campus when he arrived.
According to Mirizzi, the new directories are currently in the first steps of the design process. The directories are planned to have an NKU-themed design, to possibly contain electronic signing, to have easy-to-read navigation information for pedestrians and to be strategically placed in areas with high pedestrian traffic. “So far three directories are set to be constructed,” he said.
Nunn Drive Roundabout
The main entrance roundabout area on Nunn Drive was also a major area for improvement for the committee. “When you first arrive to campus at that circle, you get a feeling that it’s not quite finished yet,” Mirizzi said. The addition of trees and other decorative items in the area of the roundabout will help to give the entrance a more finished feeling and look, he added.
Bus Stop Shelters
The committee also planned the addition of one bus stop shelter near the Lucas Administrative Center and the remodel of other already existing bus stop shelters. “We’ve all driven past the [Lucas] Administrative Center and seen the people standing there waiting for the bus in the rain,” Wooldridge said noting the importance of adding a shelter to the popular bus stop location.
According to Mirizzi, TANK has decided to help with the upgrade and offered to fund the additional bus stop shelter, which will leave the beautification committee budget to go towards the remodel of existing bus stops. The remodel is planned to include an NKU-themed design with each bus stop having its own name. Mirizzi also mentioned lighting and Wi-Fi access as possible amenities of the new and remodeled shelters.
Older-Looking Fixtures and Structures
The last of the planned upgrades included repurposing light structures and other older-looking structures and fixtures with more welcoming objects such as planters. Mirizzi said this is important because it will help beautify the campus, make it more inviting and at the same time help keep the history of the campus by utilizing pre-existing structures.
Pre-existing light structures have already been repurposed into hanging planters in front of Nunn Hall.
“Overall I think this was a great way for the president [Mearns] to break the ice,” Mirizzi said. “We had engagement from people all across campus… This process has really brought everyone together, with the new president, to improve campus.”
Mirizzi added that everyone working to improve campus will help increase the amount of pride people have about NKU; the place he acknowledged many NKU students, faculty and staff call home for a large majority of their day.