Georgia State University (GSU) is among the fastest-growing institutions in the University System of Georgia with 32,000 students. As an urban research institution GSU has historically served an important role educating non-traditional students. The existing campus, embedded in the street grid of downtown Atlanta, is composed of recently acquired commercial office buildings and institutional buildings. The University engaged Sasaki to assist with a vision for campus that would accommodate an enrollment increase from 32,000 to 40,000 students, a significantly expanded research mission, and other initiatives identified in GSU's recently-completed strategic plan. The updated master plan also attends to a number of goals articulated by the university's faculty, staff, and students. These include a strong desire for physical improvements that ultimately reinforce the campus's sense of place—more convenient, safe, and attractive pedestrian connections between campus facilities, green campus landscape spaces, communal study and social spaces outdoors and within buildings, high quality classrooms and laboratories, and improved student life facilities.
Sasaki's approach to this challenge utilized the University System of Georgia Master Planning Template, a guide for campus master planning that Sasaki developed for the 34 institutions within the state system. Teaming with Robert and Company, an Atlanta-based engineering and landscape firm, Sasaki performed a comprehensive assessment of the existing campus and identified key opportunities for connecting and enhancing the three major campus districts: the Campus Core District, the Woodruff Park District, and the Piedmont Corridor District. The master plan proposes a major renovation of the campus core with the selective, phased removal of outmoded building facilities, the introduction of an interior, landscaped Greenway from Petit Science Center to Hurt Plaza at Peachtree Center Avenue, and landscaped gateways. These proposed improvements are designed to provide a more welcoming appearance, improve pedestrian circulation, and provide a series of memorable places that positively contribute to the campus identity.
In addition to providing a broad strategy for campus improvements, the updated master plan suggests solutions for a number of specific challenges to the university. These include the schematic site design for major capital projects (law and business schools as well as expanded research facilities), an alternate recommendation for rebuilding a street viaduct in the center of campus, and suggested improvements to the pedestrian realm. The plan also takes the first step towards implementing the Greenway concept by providing a preliminary phasing scheme and associated cost estimates. These specific recommendations complement the overall vision of the master plan by establishing next steps forward while still allowing GSU the flexibility to respond to the opportunities and changing circumstances presented by their downtown context.