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Landscaping projects make Liberty's campus 'spring' to life

March 24, 2009 : Teresa Dunham

Liberty University’s Campus North complex is a major cog in day-to-day operations, but university officials would like to make it look less industrial.

Most of the university’s staff works in Campus North, which in addition to the School of Law, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, LU Online and several business offices, also houses an indoor track, student medical center, hair salon, post office, workout facilities and food court. It connects to Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty Christian Academy as well.

The building’s “get things done” atmosphere is apparent; the 1 million square foot building was originally an Ericsson cell phone plant until LU acquired it about six years ago.

In hopes of making Campus North look more aesthetically pleasing, Liberty University is focusing some major beautification efforts there. The first mission: landscaping.

“We’re trying to do something to make the university have an extra ‘wow,’” said Charles Spence, LU’s director of planning and construction. “I believe that, next to painting, landscaping is the biggest bang for the buck.”

The view at a Virginia theme park is serving as one of his inspirations.

“I went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg [Va.] and just fell in love with the landscaping — the way that they took their parking lots and did heavy landscaping,” he said. “It [looked] really good because there was so much landscaping around [the parking lots] that it wasn’t big blacktop strips.”

LU’s budget-savvy efforts will be on a smaller scale than Busch Gardens, he said.

Stretching from the intersection of University Boulevard and Candlers Mountain Road, to Ericsson Drive in front of the Football Operations Center and LaHaye Ice Center and toward the LU Police Department entrance on Campus North, the university is spending $30,000 on landscaping improvements.

Crews started planting nearly 500 high-quality trees including maples, oaks, red cedar and holly in those areas while students were on spring break, March 9-13. Before break, workers planted bushes near the LaHaye Ice Center.

“Some of them are to hide some unsightly mechanical equipment and to make the LaHaye Ice Center look better,” said Spence.

Spence is also looking at plans for new entrances for the Seminary, the doorway near the chancellor’s office and Campus North’s main foyer area. He’s considering installing a porch at the building’s main entrance, similar to the entryway of Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center or Thomas Road Baptist Church.

“It’ll really change the whole face of this building and take away some more of that industrial look,” Spence said.

Work on those entrances could start this fall.

For an example of the VIP treatment for entrances, look no further than the Tilley Student Center entrance. Completed beautification efforts there included some blacktop removal, brick porch installation, handicapped ramps, railings, planter boxes, canopy awnings and a new sign.

“Even though that whole area was blacktop, now we’ve got some plants there that soften up the landscape and make it look a lot better,” said Spence, who also wants to dress up the Post Office entrance near the Campus North bus stop.

Long-range planning calls for an addition to the face of the LaHaye Student Union — and when the new theater in the tower of Campus North is complete, the entire area by the Tilley Student Center will be given a facelift.

“We intend to keep going as much as possible and make the place feel nice,” he said of Campus North. “We’re spending a lot of effort and energy in it — a lot of hard work.”

Taking aesthetics into consideration, Spence said the Thomas Indoor Soccer Complex that’s under construction at Campus North will incorporate a lot of brick.

“We think we did a good job at making a metal building look much more classy, just like we did at the Tilley [Center],” he said.

Liberty Christian Academy’s plans to build a new outdoor recreation area will also change the face of Campus North along Candlers Mountain Road. The plans call for paved basketball courts, grassy fields and a kickball diamond. LCA is currently raising funds to build the $250,000 facility.

Liberty’s beautification efforts are stretching beyond Campus North, too.

Last fall, LU began planting about 1,000 plants along Regents Parkway, a new perimeter road along the western border of campus.

“As they start to grow up, the perimeter road will really develop into something a lot prettier,” Spence said.

When the Barnes & Noble Bookstore is completed on Main Campus in May, it will get a thorough landscaping treatment, too, including close to 500 plants. New trees are also sprouting up in the area near Doc’s Diner and the new paintball field on East Campus.

Last year LU completed $1 million worth of paving on campus, and another $600,000 in paving improvements are planned for this year.

“We’ll follow right behind that with beautiful landscaping,” Spence said.


Parkway gardens taking shape

Garden A on the Jerry Falwell Parkway

Gardens along the Jerry Falwell Parkway are enhancing the views of the Liberty University campus from U.S. 460. More than 20 gardens were designed and available for sponsorship by area businesses starting last year.

Last week, crews were busy planting a garden between the entrance ramp to U.S. 460 West off Candlers Mountain Road. The garden, Garden A, is being sponsored by Englander Transport, Inc. and England’s Stove Works, Inc.

Garden K, along the parkway in front of Doc’s Diner, was recently completed. That garden is being sponsored by Sodexo, which operates LU’s dining services, including the diner.

Potential sponsors can contact the LU Development Office at 1 (866) 602-7983.