Design phase begins for university’s West End Neighborhood

A major component of the Academic Strategic Plan and FutureVU, Vanderbilt’s comprehensive land use plan, is re-imagining what has been dubbed the “West End Neighborhood” – the area comprising Carmichael Towers, Greek Row and West Side Row along West End Avenue.

Following up on a series of community meetings and working group efforts, today the university shared the current status of planning for the neighborhood’s transformation over the next several years. The goal is to enhance the residential living and learning experience for all students.

The design for the West End Neighborhood includes new College Halls, a beautification project to give the area a park like feel and a significant transformation of Greek Row within its existing footprint.

“The plans for the West End Neighborhood, and the entire FutureVU process, reflect Vanderbilt’s commitment to use the physical campus to reflect our academic mission and our values of equity, inclusion, friendship and community,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said. “[rquote]The feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni and others throughout the planning was critical to inform the creation of spaces that are truly welcoming and inspire growth and learning.”[/rquote]

The newest College Halls would ultimately replace Carmichael Towers and, based on the current design plan, extend into the existing Greek Row neighborhood. The university plans to work with the organizations located in the proposed footprint, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Zeta Tau Alpha, as well as with other organizations in the area wherein the university would utilize sites to build new homes and spaces. This includes Kappa Sigma, Lambda Chi Alpha and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Design planning would also include the university building a new multipurpose space in the area that can be used by Multicultural Leadership Council groups and other student organizations. The multipurpose space is intended to make the neighborhood more inclusive as it provides the opportunity for a variety of student organizations without exclusive-use spaces, including Greek organizations, to have a place to host events in the neighborhood.

photo of streetscape
NOW: Kensington Pl.
parklike pedestrian setting
AFTER: Kensington Pl.

Transformation of the West End Neighborhood and Greek Row is intended to be consistent with the ideals of FutureVU. The intent/plan is to beautify the area into a park like setting with tree-lined pathways and streets to separate pedestrians and cars; roads limited, where possible, to access for emergency purposes; pedestrian and biking friendly zones, and more open spaces for community activities and events.

The West End Neighborhood, once fully realized, will showcase the importance Vanderbilt places on extending learning beyond the classroom to spaces where students feel welcomed and can interact and learn from each other,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente said. “Expanding the College Halls residential college model is an important pillar of the university’s Academic Strategic Plan. Our goal is for all students to live in a place where they can experience the same feelings of community that is evident at the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, the Warren-Moore Colleges and in our living-learning communities at the McGill Project, McTyeire International House and the Mayfield Lodges.”

The first phase of the project, burying overhead utilities for the new College Halls, is part of the beautification effort and is planned for mid-December – after final exams. The utilities construction will impact parking and yards for Greek houses in the area. Dean of Students Staff met with the leadership of the affected Greek organizations – Pi Beta Phi, Alpha Tau Omega, Sigma Nu and Kappa Kappa Gamma – to discuss impact and accommodations during the proposed construction. During this period, access to the alley behind the affected organizations’ houses will be closed off. Additionally, the Tarpley parking lot designated for “F” student permits will be closed.

photo of current streetscape and parking
NOW: 24th Ave. S.
Image of park-like area with pedestrians
AFTER: 24th Ave. S.

Vanderbilt Student Government representatives met with Vice Chancellor of Administration Eric Kopstain, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Safety August Washington and Associate Provost and Dean of Students Mark Bandas to discuss the impact the closure of the Tarpley lot would have on the larger student community and to develop a plan for accommodations. The group decided that, to mitigate the loss of the Tarpley lot, additional parking will be designated for “F” permits in the 25th Avenue Garage. The university will also offer full-year parking rebates to all “F” permit holders who decide to return to campus without their cars after the Thanksgiving or winter breaks. To further assist with transportation, the university will add a Vandy Van stop at the 25th Avenue Garage during Vandy Van hours.

“[rquote]We plan to make the transition to these wonderful new spaces as smooth as possible for our community members, and to accommodate as much as possible the groups directly that would be affected by the changes.[/rquote] We think everyone would be pleased with the end result – a new campus neighborhood that is beautiful and functional as well as friendlier to pedestrians, bicyclists and visitors to our campus,” Eric Kopstain, vice chancellor for administration, said.

The design plans for the West End Neighborhood also include removal of all parking in the Greek Row area in approximately 12 to 24 months – when the full beautification plan is in place. Personnel who need to access the Greek houses, such as house directors and caterers, would have access to the houses through limited access roadways.

Long-term parking solutions for the area are being addressed through a process that involves the broader campus community. The university is developing a comprehensive transportation strategy that will address parking needs, look at a variety of enhancements to improve the accessibility of campus, and additional transportation options, such as expanded shuttle service, a transportation hub, improved biking infrastructure and Uber/Lyft drop-off points.

FutureVU, Vanderbilt’s most recent land use planning process, launched in 2015. Its guiding principles relate to the university’s role as an internationally recognized research university that has strong partnerships among its schools, and that is a citizen of Nashville and the region. Additional principles highlight Vanderbilt’s belief that diversity and inclusion are integral to its mission, and that the university is a community of neighborhoods on a historic, multi-layered and vigorous campus. Maintaining Vanderbilt’s walkable and sustainable campus is also a focus.

Students, faculty, staff and trustees were deeply engaged throughout the planning, and the land use plan represents innovative ideas that have emerged through collaborations with the Vanderbilt community and consultant teams.