Western Michigan University, like most academic institutions of the time, experienced extreme enrollment growth in the 1960s. In 1957, the year WMU was officially designated a university, enrollment totaled 5,500 students. By 1973, enrollment had nearly quadrupled to 21,000 students.
The 1970 Campus Development Plan addressed these growth issues. The plan also outlines the rational for closing off the portion of West Michigan Avenue that ran through campus and illustrates the proposed extension of Howard Street for handling crosstown traffic.
A 1998 report by WMU's Department of Campus Planning (now the Planning, Space Management and Capital Projects Division) reviews the 1970 plan and addresses its implementation, looks at which problems or conditions were solved or improved and which still remain, plus new issues that have developed. The historic oil embargo of 1973 and the ensuing national economic recession greatly affected institutional planning and growth nationwide. Michigan universities were no exception. In 1971, five major building projects were completed at Western: Rood, Friedman, Dunbar and Knauss Halls and the Everett Office Tower. In contrast, it would be ten years before the next major academic building project—the Dorothy U. Dalton Center, completed in 1982.
1970 Existing Conditions Plan
Above is a selected graphic from the 1970 Campus Development Plan report. Existing University properties are shown in dark green. Proposed campus expansion (property acquisition) is shown in orange. The plan also indicates the proposed location of the Howard Street extension.
1970 Land Use Plan
Above is a selected graphic from the 1970 Campus Development Plan report. The plan recommended that all academic-related facilities be clustered within a designated "academic core" on the West Campus. It is worth noting that most of the East Campus is not designated with a specific purpose, but is included in "Unassigned Area". In 1970, the School of Business and the departments of Speech and Hearing, Dance and parts of Industrial Education and Technology were still located on East Campus. The University High School, part of the Campus Training System for student-teachers and descended from the original Training School for the Western Michigan Normal School, was closed in 1966.
1970 Development Plan
Above is a selected graphic from the 1970 Campus Development Plan report. Buildings are shown in two colors: black for existing buildings and red for proposed buildings. The total estimated square footage for the proposed new buildings was based on a square feet per student allocation, also called the facility-student ratio, and on an enrollment of 22,000 full-time students. Each building was assumed to have three floors, so that each footprint represented one-third of the proposed total square footage.
In 1970, the ratio of students to facilities was significantly lower than that projected in the plan. The projected number was based in part on expectations of growth in graduate programs and research, which would also require growth in faculty numbers. In addition, the 1970 ratio did not reflect the numerous faculty offices and fine art studios occupying rented houses in the adjacent west side neighborhoods. Eventually these would be provided for on the main campus.