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Developing a comprehensive roadmap for a growing urban institution that's a cornerstone of the Las Vegas community

University of Nevada, Las Vegas Campus Framework Plan

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
358 acres
Planning and Urban Design
Completed 2021

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Campus Framework Plan provides a roadmap to guide the institution’s growth across regional Las Vegas, including UNLV’s primary Maryland Parkway campus and its Shadow Lane Health Sciences Campus.

UNLV’s Strategic Plan — Top Tier — articulates a vision for the university to be recognized as a top tier public institution in research, education, and community impact. The comprehensive scope elements include land use and urban design, academic planning, transportation and mobility, landscape and open space, sustainability and infrastructure, and signage and wayfinding. The effort relied upon an inclusive and thoughtful engagement strategy of focus group meetings, campus-wide presentations, and robust online tools and surveys.

UNLV plays a critical role as an anchor institution within the city of Las Vegas. Citizens look to the university as a stabilizing force within this transient, fast-moving urban context, as well as a center for innovation and ideas. Therefore, while the plan was designed to serve the needs of the university community, it also needed to broadly integrate with planning initiatives across the greater metropolitan region. This included Vision 2045: The Downtown Las Vegas Master Plan, The Las Vegas Medical District Master Plan, Smart Vegas Plan, and the City of North Las Vegas Master Plan. As part of the planning process, the team met with Las Vegas Airport and Clark County representatives to align campus development with key transportation initiatives, including a multi-million dollar highway bypass along the campus’s southern border, and connectivity of the campus’s mobility system to the broader Clark County transit strategy.

Within the university, the prospect of a new Health Sciences campus provided an opportunity to co-locate and integrate the health science disciplines of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, and Allied Health onto a singular campus. The plan calls for interdisciplinary facilities organized around the themes of teaching, research, and clinic, rather than by department.

The Framework is different from a traditional master plan in that its prescriptive elements focus on principles, processes, and big ideas, with the goal of forming a broad vision for the physical environment. The principles will guide physical change over the coming decades. The most foundational principles are about creating a cohesive university environment and integrated planning to ensure the academic mission drives the physical environment in a financially responsible fashion.

Physical ideas cover multiple scales, from big organizing concepts for the whole university, to district studies, to street sections and conceptual building designs. These ideas are grounded in UNLV’s academic mission and strategic goals to realize its identity as a truly urban, top-tier research university.

Fulfilling the University’s Mission

Key goals communicated in UNLV’s strategic plan that this Framework Plan addresses:

  • Invest in learning spaces and collaborative research and work environments
  • Develop a health sciences campus for training of medical and allied health professionals
  • Establish a “gateway” district along the university’s urban corridor, Maryland Parkway
  • Partner with the County to better connect UNLV to the broader Las Vegas metropolitan region
  • Provide spaces for collaboration at each of UNLV’s campus locations to enable continued collaboration with City, government, and cultural institutions within Las Vegas
  • Expand residential choice
  • Better integrate the residential and academic experiences

Enhancing the Image and Identity of the UNLV Campus

The UNLV campus lacks an identity that relates to its urban and desert context. Strategies to enhance image and identity operate at a number of scales within the Framework Plan:

  • Investment in key university gateways to allow ease of access to campus and to provide clarity for visitors.
  • A campus landscape strategy that honors the unique natural desert ecology of the region
  • A major new promenade that reorients the campus to skyline views and directly links the campus to the Strip
  • A comprehensive Wayfinding and Signage Plan with landmark signs that capture the spirit of Las Vegas, and internal signage that celebrates the UNLV brand

The Plan proposes an urban open space framework that builds upon the existing city grid to enhance connectivity, access, and comfort throughout campus. The open space network centers on north-south and east-west connectors, as well as the completion of the mall, to frame the campus core. A series of open spaces are distributed throughout the campus to support innovation and collaboration.

The open space plan celebrates the diversity of the student body by creating affirmative public landscapes. Strategies include the creation of space for mental health and healing; allowing for cultural expression in the public realm; and, flexible spaces that allow for diverse student experiences.

University Student Life and Support Services

UNLV is cited as one of the most diverse student populations in the country. The Plan supports this diversity through a range of comprehensive strategies:

  • Doubling the amount of on-campus student housing in a series of neighborhoods, with proximate access to dining and recreation amenities
  • New and renovated facilities such as the Academic Success Center and an expanded Student Union to support the significant number of commuter students that need “landing places” during the day
  • The creation of new outdoor spaces like the new “Campus Heart,” which provides a flexible space to accommodate large and small gatherings

Considering Climate and Sustainability

The UNLV campus exhibits, on average, temperatures 24.0-degrees warmer than nearby rural areas. In order to mitigate the climate discomfort, the plan recommends a tree framework that reduces heat island effect, establishes continuous dappled shade, and provides gradients of vegetation to create hospitable spaces. Furthermore, the plan establishes vegetative buffers along the campus periphery in order to mitigate dust and high winds. Architecturally, the plan implements self-shading facades along the longer side of the buildings. In addition to providing the building with cooling strategies, the shade structures provide an arcade at the lower level to create a comfortable pedestrian environment.

For more information contact Tyler Patrick.

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