Campus Planning History


1903 Campus Map

1903 Original Design

  • On May 27, 1903, Michigan Governor Aaron T. Bliss signed a Michigan Legislature bill authorizing the creation of the state's fourth teacher-training facility or "Normal School". The three other Normal Schools were in Ypsilanti (Eastern), Mount Pleasant (Central) and Marquette (Northern).
  • The location for the new school was to be determined by the state board of education. Among the cities considered were Allegan, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Decatur, Three Oaks, Hastings and Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo was chosen as the new school's location on August 28, 1903. The firm's representative recommended the site known as "Prospect Hill", which was subsequently approved by the Board on November 27, 1903. The Olmsted Brothers also prepared a complete landscape plan for the 20-acre site.
  • The first building, the Administration Building, was started May 16, 1904, and occupied September 1, 1905. In its first year the school enrolled 107 students.


1904 planting map

1904 Planting Plan

  • The Kalamazoo community offered twenty-four possible sites for the new Western State Normal School. The Michigan state board of education narrowed the list down to four sites, and then hired the nationally-known landscape firm, Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, to recommend the final selection. Upon the firm's written recommendation the board selected Prospect Hill on November 27, 1903.
detail of the 1904 planting map1904 Planting Plan (Enhanced)

1904 Planting Plan (Enhanced)

  • The architect selected for the project, E.W. Arnold, designed the first building for the Western State Normal School—the Administration Building—and drafted a plan for a quadrangle of potential future buildings. The Olmsted Brothers used the Arnold quadrangle plan as the basis for a landscape, or planting, plan for the entire 20-acre site.


  • The first building for the Western State Normal School, the Administration Building, was constructed in 1904-05. In 1905 and 1907 the Michigan Legislature appropriated funds for the construction of an addition to the building: a gymnasium and additional classrooms.
  • Architect E. W. Arnold of Battle Creek, Michigan, returned to design the addition. Below are plans from 1906 showing the proposed additions in the context of the overall campus plan from 1903. The "Gymnasium and Addition" was completed in 1907.

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1921 Campus Map

1921 Campus Land Survey

  • President Waldo started to expand the campus in 1913 with a land purchase. By 1923 he had negotiated for all the land bounded by Oakland Drive, the Michigan Central Railroad and the State Psychiatric Hospital (located to the south on Oakland Drive), plus some additional land just south of the original buildings.
  • The new properties were not hassle-free from a building perspective, however. The land was still quite hilly, and there were serious drainage issues in the valleys. Drainage problems persist today, as the WMU campus sits on two major county watersheds—the Goldsworth Valley and the Arcadia Creek valley.
  • President Sangren, Waldo's successor, continued to investigate expansion options. One option was to acquire additional properties to the south along Oakland Drive. This would involve purchasing residential properties, possibly entire blocks, in established neighborhoods. Another option was to acquire land to the west of the New York Central Railroad tracks and south of West Michigan Ave. Largely former farmland, these properties included golf courses and private residences.


1925 Campus Map

1925 Campus Map


By 1925, the Western State Normal School had grown significantly, totaling thirteen buildings and a stadium. Enrollment reached over 2,200 students. The school campaigned with the state to be elevated to the status of a teachers college. The new designation was approved in 1927.

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1955 Student Center Model

1955 Student Center Model

  • Western's first construction project on the north side of West Michigan Avenue was the Student Center, which would replace Walwood Union as the social center of campus, and four residence halls.
  • A unique feature of this building group were the enclosed corridors, known as "food tubes", connecting the buildings with the dining halls on the north side of the Student Center. One large kitchen for all four dining halls was also located in the center. The south side of the center contained all the public and commercial spaces, including a cafeteria, offices, meeting rooms, a bowling alley and a barber shop.


1959 Campus Map1959 Campus Map

1959 Campus Map

  • 1959 property holdings are tinted olive green on the photo.
  • Potential future acquisitions are tinted light orange.
  • University buildings are tinted yellow or white.
  • Planned buildings are tinted red.


Proposal for Howard Street extension to form loop road around Western campus; concepts for classroom and housing construction; proposed West Campus property acquisition

  • 1962 Planning Map

    1962 Planning Map

    These proposed campus plans are from the early 1960s. Goldsworth Valley Group #3, completed in 1965, is shown on the plan, however Kohrman Hall and the Trimpe Building, which were constructed in 1966, are not. This indicates that this plan dates from the planning of Goldsworth #3 in 1962-63, but before the planning for either Trimpe or Kohrman.
  • Western Michigan University, like most colleges and universities at the time, experienced tremendous increases in enrollment in the 1960s. This created a severe housing shortage at a time when it was customary for about half of all students to live on campus. Plans for up to six major residence halls in the Goldsworth Valley would have tripled the housing supply on campus. By 1970, though, student demographics had changed. Not only was the enrollment growth rate slowing, but more students were preferring to live off-campus. The reduced demand on housing eliminated the need for 3 of the 6 proposed Goldsworth Valley units.
  • Note that this plan also pre-dates the extension of Oliver Street westward to Stadium Drive (the extension would be completed by 1970). The plan also illustrates an early version of a loop road around the south and west boundaries of the campus.

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1970 Campus Map

1970 Campus Development Plan

  • The plan depicts ideas first drawn in the early 1960s and then later included in the 1970 Campus Development Plan: the extension of Howard Street north to West Main Street, with West Michigan Avenue terminating in cul-de-sacs on the east and west sides of the campus building core and the building footprints for Rood and Everett Halls.


1972 Campus Reroute Map

1972 W. Michigan Re-Route Plan

  • The University Physical Plant outlines instructions for vehicle circulation changes to take effect upon the opening of the Howard Street extension between Stadium Drive and West Michigan Avenue, projected for November, 1973.
  • When complete, the extension would end at West Main Street to the north.
  • The 1970 Campus Development Plan called for developing and maintaining green space while simplifying vehicle and pedestrian circulation patterns. Tied into this was the need to deal with bicycle traffic on the campus roads and sidewalks. Before the 1990s and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), few roadways were equipped with curb cuts or bicycle-friendly berms. When road travel is inconvenient or unavailable, bicycle traffic usually winds up on sidewalks, with an obvious potential for collisions and ill-will.
  • The preliminary Bicycle Path Study by Robert O'Boyle and associates lays out parameters for dealing with bicycle and pedestrian safety and describes bicycle-friendly road improvements.


  • In 1981 a group of researchers from the Department of Geography—Thomas W. Hodler, Richard Brewer, Lawrence G. Brewer and Henry A Raup—compiled a map illustrating the predominant types of vegetation covering Kalamazoo County in the years 1825 to 1830, a period just prior to settlement of the area.
  • In 1981, the University's "outlying" properties on the western edge of Kalamazoo County were known collectively as "the University Farm". This included the Lee Baker Farm, the Colony Farm and the Asylum Lake property.
  • In 2000 the Lee Baker Farm was renamed the Parkview Campus, the new home to the College of Engineering and the WMU Business, Technology and Research Park.
  • As of 1981, the WMU campus was principally comprised of the areas known as East Campus and West Campus. Other University properties included the University Farm and the Kleinstuck Preserve, given to the University in 1922.


Land use report: "An Analysis of Land Use on Properties Owned by Western Michigan University"

  • "The objective of this study was to analyze five parcels of land owned by Western Michigan University which are not contiguous to the main campus. These parcels are known as the Arcadia Tract, Kleinstuck Preserve, the University Farm, the Milham Road Property, and the Airport Property. The goal of this study was to provide sufficient information about these sites from which rational decisions could be made regarding their future use."
  • "All parcels of land both developed and undeveloped possess potentials for certain uses. The number of possible uses for a specific site are based on natural and cultural characteristics of each site. These characteristics make it possible for land to be developed in numerous ways. This study intends to identify the uses that are appropriate or inappropriate for the five parcels owned by WMU. The conclusions and recommendations are based on the analysis of physical, social, economic, and aesthetic aspects of each site. The needs of WMU, the local community, and the entire Kalamazoo area were also considered. All of the conditions from which these conclusions and recommendation are based, are from the most recent data available and the author assumes the responsibility for any misrepresented or inaccurate information. Future conditions may alter some of the results and require revision and updating of these studies."

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1998 Campus Map

WMU Campus Designation

  • In 1998 the Department of Campus Planning produced studies of campus facilities, land use, and development issues. These were used as preliminary studies for the 2000 Master Plan.
  • Stadium Drive roughly divided WMU into East Campus and West Campus, with the Power Plant and the Stadium Drive Apartments grouped with West Campus. In order to simplify discussions of planning issues additional sections were defined as North and South Campuses, reflecting both geography and land use. These are shown below.
  • The South Campus included the Kalamazoo State Psychiatric Hospital grounds and buildings, which were officially turned over to the University in 1998. The darker shape in the drawing identifies the properties leased back for continued use by the hospital. The University's "Outlying Properties", such as the Lee Baker Farm, the Arboretum, and the Kleinstuck Preserve, had no "campus" designation at this time.
  • In 2000, after the start of planning for the new College of Engineering building and the Business, Technology and Research Park, the Lee Baker Farm property was renamed the Parkview Campus. At the same time the South Campus was officially named the Oakland Drive Campus, and was being studied as the possible site of a new College of Health and Human Services building.


  • Key to the 2000 Master Plan are the "Fundamental Concepts". These ten guidelines, a result of the two-year planning process, are directions for future planning. The fundamental concepts will be used to test and evaluate the scope and direction of major projects at the University, including building projects, road and parking improvements and signage.
  • The 2000 Master Plan also contains an illustrated plan as an example of what the WMU campus may develop to in twenty or thirty years, based on current growth projections. The example, illustrated graphically through maps and sketches, depicts ideas relating to buildings, residence halls, pedestrian spaces, “green spaces" and vehicular circulation. The viewer should understand that these ideas, as presented, are not planning solutions—they are merely graphics, prepared by the planning consultants, suggesting a solution that satisfies the Fundamental Concepts.


aerial of the College of Health and Human Services

College of Health and Human Services building in Oakland Drive Campus.

  • The new building for the College of Health and Human Services is located on WMU's Oakland Drive Campus. On the building's east side a curved glass "curtain wall" faces the Oakland Drive streetscape, while the building's west side and main entrance can be seen on West Campus, when looking across Stadium Drive. The architect of record for the project was SmithGroup of Detroit.
  • The Oakland Drive Campus is the University's most recent acquisition. Originally state property, the Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital was transferred to Western in 1998. It has proved valuable as a location for the permanent home for the College of Health and Human Services and for its potential as a resource that WMU can use for expanded research and health care service programs, contributing to Michigan's "Health Care Corridor".


West entrance development

2002 West Entrance Development Plan Map

2002 West Entrance Development

  • One of the major conclusions of the 1999-2000 planning process was the need to improve the image, appearance, and Western identification at the principal entrances to campus. The 2002 West Entrance Development Plan addresses this issue as well as relocating essential visitor destinations, the Admissions Office and the WMU Bookstore.
  • The first component of the Development Plan, and the first to be constructed, was a total overhaul of West Michigan Avenue from Howard Street to where it ends in a small cul-de-sac in front of Faunce Student Services Building. The new road design included a boulevard, a roundabout and pedestrian underpasses. Knollwood and Rankin Avenues were adjusted to enter the roundabout, enabling a continuous flow of traffic with no left turns. The roadwork was completed during summer 2004.


Campus Master Plan Update

2004 Campus Map

2004 Campus Update

  • Master Planning for university campuses is not a new process. The 1903 and 1906 plans generated by E. W. Arnold for the first Western Normal School buildings on Prospect Hill were essentially master plans. The most critical feature of any successful master plan, however, is whether it is reviewed and updated in a timely fashion, allowing the institution to both anticipate and respond to change.
  • The generally accepted planning standard is to formally review and update master plans in five to ten year intervals. Informal planning exercises happen frequently in the meantime, but the periodic formal documentation is critical to maintaining the structure of long-term physical planning and fulfilling the institution's mission.


Western Michigan University Design Charette

  • The Campus Design Charrette met in May 2006 to study and develop concepts for rejuvenating the two major open spaces on the Western Michigan University campus: the Miller Plaza and the West Michigan Mall (the east-west corridor formed by the former West Michigan Avenue). It was initiated and organized by Evie Asken, Director of Campus Planning.
  • Construction and renovation project in these areas are altering campus pedestrian patterns and are likely to change open space requirements. It has been determined that storm water collection on campus must be handled more efficiently and, in keeping with today's standards, must be approached in a more sustainable manner. The physical plant staff have identified significant maintenance issues relating to the campus hardscape. Additionally, architects have some challenges in adapting existing conditions to the requirements of new projects.


Campus Master Plan Update

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