College unveils draft master plan

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Flathead Valley Community College President Jane Karas calls the college’s draft master plan an opportunity to do some “forward thinking” and planning for future growth of the campus.

New facilities and changes envisioned for the future include a quadrant of green space, student life center, fitness center, trail system, agricultural fields, housing and relocation of parking to the perimeter of the campus. Karas said students reviewing the parking change did not object to walking further to class.

“They would rather have more green space,” she said.

A meeting last week drew about a dozen people to comment or learn about the draft plan. Karas pointed out the Kalispell campus has doubled in acreage since the last master plan was adopted in 2002.

More than 200 acres of campus land includes an area along the Stillwater River to the east behind the Hutton Ranch commercial development and the developed campus area that stretches to the south along Grandview Drive. The campus is bordered by U.S. 93 to the west.

Karas presented a draft campus layout prepared with assistance from consulting firm Oslund and Associates. She emphasized buildings and other features shown may or may not be built and that the plan was “an abstract and perceptual” document.

The layout did not include a specific place for a much discussed university center to provide instructor offices and classrooms for bachelor and graduate degrees offered in partnership with Montana colleges and universities. Karas said the reason was the college hasn’t completed its needs assessment for future partnership programs, so space needs aren’t known.

Responding to questions, she said the fitness center, along with workout equipment, could provide a larger space for public meetings. Karas said the community room in the Arts and Technology has been too small for some events.

On the layout, the fitness center was placed near proposed housing on the south side near where Grandview curves to the south. Asked if the housing would be dormitories, Karas said no model was chosen, though some seem to favor apartment-style housing.

She told the group the college has a pilot housing project in partnership with Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

“The 16 units are filled with a waiting list,” she said.

Another participant asked about plans to extend Grandview Drive over the Stillwater River to provide an east campus outlet to alleviate backed up traffic at U.S. 93. Karas said the city had a meeting to discuss different options for road projects, but chose a Four Mile Drive project instead of the Grandview extension for immediate attention.

Mark Holston, a college trustee, described the master plan as a blueprint of where things might go if the campus expands. Karas said the locations could change, pointing out that the Child Education Center and Arts and Technology Building switched places from the 2002 master plan based on additional input.

“This just gives you some idea of what the campus may look like in the future,” she said.

The idea is to anticipate all potential future needs and goals such as maximum green space and preserving views to avoid mistakes in placing buildings as resources come available to construct them.

Based on comments taken from students, employees and others so far, Karas said the board was looking at the university center, student center and fitness center as priority facilities. At earlier presentations to the board, trustees had requested that landscaping improvements in the master plan start as soon  as possible.  

A community member asked if the college would soon outgrow space available for classes. With the soon-to-open nursing and science building, the college will solve much of the overcrowding and would probably not run out of space in the near future, Karas said.

She encouraged people with ideas or comments on the draft master plan or who need more information to call 756-3801 or email masterplancomments@fvcc.edu.

Karas also invites people to bring comments to one of her series of community conversations planned in May and June. Dates and times will be announced later.

Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at cchase@dailyinterlake.com.

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