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Master plan debated

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The La Verne that its longtime residents grew up in may not look the same in the near future.

After more than 18 months of discussion with the city, the University is proposing to update the campus in a 15-year expansion plan that would demolish several old buildings and provide room for new developments.

The proposal, in essence, would involve moving the Blickenstaff Tennis Pavilion and Ben Hines Field to the Campus West property south of Arrow Highway as part of a planned sports complex. This move would help the remaining project proposals including:

• Building more than 100 parking spaces on the current site of Ben Hines Field;

• Demolishing the historic Fruit Exchange building on First and D streets, to build a residence hall that extend onto the site of the Blickenstaff Tennis Pavilion;

• Demolishing the Old Gym to provide room for the Sarah and Michael Abraham Campus Center and approximately 30 parking spaces;

• Demolishing the Studebaker-Hanawalt residence hall to create roughly 85 parking spaces.

Students welcome the plans but also have some concerns.

“If anything, I look forward to not wasting so much time looking for a parking spot, as long as they don’t increase the cost of tuition dramatically,” said Robert Patton, a sophomore international business and language major who commutes from Glendora.

“The tennis court right now is in horrible condition,” said David Duong, a senior business administration major and president of the campus tennis club.

“There are cracks in the court surface, the nets are torn and there are no lights, and if they’re going to build new facilities, we’ll have better courts to play but we have to drive there,” he added.

Other proposed changes could impact the community as much as the students.

They include demolishing the campus bookstore on the northwest corner of Bonita Avenue and D Street to build a two-to-three-story multi-purpose commercial building that will serve ULV administrative functions and create space that the community can lease as shops and offices, and creating a three-story parking structure on the southeast corner of Bonita Avenue and C Street to serve the multi-purpose commercial building.

Many residents feel the expansion may jeopardize La Verne’s history and Old Town’s quaint ambiance.

“A three-story parking structure is going to be a zoo,” said Adrian Quintero, a 14-year La Verne resident.

“It won’t blend with our stores,” said Barbara Allison, an employee at Ellsworth’s Stationers.

“You gotta keep the Old Town charm because the public doesn’t want to come down to see the mixed-use building,” said Abel Gandara, owner of Get a Haircut salon on Third Street, just east of D in Old Town.

“But we need the parking plan,” Gandara added.

Other people in the community see the proposal as an opportunity.

“This area needs more business because there isn’t enough to attract people,” said Don Hauser, owner of the Coin Depot on D Street in Old Town.

“It’s a must. We’ve been crying for the city to do something about parking for 15 years,” said Philippe Sigal, owner of Sigal Diamonds, also on D Street in Old Town.

“I think it must be negative as far as the feel of the downtown area goes, but that’s not a sufficient reason to hold back business and college expansion,” said Daniel Nevills, a 15-year La Verne resident.

Unlike the rest of the proposals, the Bonita Avenue mixed-use development is only in its infant stage of planning and will take considerable additional public review even if the Campus Master Plan gets approved by the city, said Hal Fredericksen, La Verne community development director.

“The expansion plan is necessary to accommodate the administration and educational needs of the University as it continues to grow and develop,” said University of La Verne President Stephen Morgan.

He predicts an increase in enrollment in the next 10 to 15 years.

Not all the new construction proposals would obliterate historic campus buildings.

In fact construction plans propose to preserve and reconstruct the historic Hanawalt House, which burned down in December 2004.

In addition to the Campus Master Plan, the University must also present its Environmental Impact Report as part of the expansion proposal.

This is required by California’s Environmental Quality Act, which outlines the construction impact.

The Campus Master Plan was unveiled to the public for the first time earlier last month in a hearing before the City Planning Commission.

The University will present further research of the Campus Master Plan proposal at the extended public hearing before the Planning Commission at City Hall on Jan. 3.

Afterward the Planning Commission’s recommendations to the expansion plan may be considered for official decision by the City Council as early as Jan. 16.

If approved, the University plans to begin the project with the construction of the Abraham Campus Center in November 2007.

Len Ly can be reached at

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