Like politics, when a university gets a new administration, priorities change-- new ideas are introduced, and old ones are thrown out. This has certainly been the case for UAH since Dr. David ("Dave") Williams took the job as president of the university two years ago. Many of the changes he and his administration have implemented have been quite unpopular with students and faculty, especially since they have been kept "out of the loop" for the most part on these changes. But it looks like the new administration might be doing something right. Finally.
The new UAH master plan, which will replace the current one created in 2004, has an underlying goal: to make UAH a "traditional" campus. One of the major (and most interesting) focus points of the new plan is a "campus town center" along Holmes Avenue. Ideas for the new town center include live music/performance venues, art galleries, restaurants, a bookstore, grocery store, movie theater, and student apartments. A full list of ideas can be seen here. The town center, if successful, will give students, faculty, and visitors something that Huntsville currently lacks-- the "college town feel" of places like Auburn and Tuscaloosa. Plus, the greater accessibility to services and entertainment will make the surrounding neighborhoods more appealing to those who want to live in the city-- many of whom would be 20-something recent college graduates, a demographic Huntsville desperately needs, but lacks partly due to the scarceness of attractive urban living options.
Pedestrians and bikes
I probably don't need to remind you that Huntsville is not a bike- or pedestrian-friendly city. The area surrounding UAH is somewhat better, but not by much. One area of concern is trying to cross Holmes to get to the other side of campus. The university is trying to change that with a new pedestrian mall (under construction; the big red block in the middle of the picture above) that will go right through the middle of campus and cross Holmes in front of the Salmon Library. One thing I don't get about this plan is the random configuration of paths in the northern part of campus, especially the oval in the top left (between Roberts and Spragins halls).
Also, the creation of a campus transit system (Charger Transit?) is mentioned repeatedly in the plan, but will probably happen in the long-term. Hopefully by that time, there will be a reliable, efficient regional transit system to make it truly effective.
A denser campus
One of the consequences of UAH being a commuter campus is that the building are so spread out, you have to drive quite a bit. Try getting from Morton Hall to Tech Hall in 15 minutes on foot; you'd be stretching it on a bike. The plan calls for more buildings in the campus core, while creating a "greenbelt" of open spaces surrounding campus. And Tech Hall, isolated from the rest of campus (located at the bottom right of the above maps) will be no more, and the departments currently housed there will move elsewhere, probably in one of the proposed academic buildings that will surround the Shelby Center. One major note on the building plan is the sheer number of dormitories planned-- I counted at least 12, not including the one currently under construction. Also, notice that Southeast Housing (the oldest dorms/apartments on campus) is absent from the master plan. I wouldn't be surprised if they were torn down in the near future, especially after the new dorms are completed across the street in 2011.
The final draft of the master plan is due this fall.