Growing together

Tech shares development goals with Houghton planning commission

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette John Lehman, Tech’s vice president for university relations and enrollment, speaks to the Houghton Planning Commission about Tech’s goals for growth Tuesday.

HOUGHTON — As Houghton goes into a master planning process, its planning commission heard from a Michigan Technological University administrator Tuesday on the university’s upcoming master plan update.

Tech’s board of trustees will be asked to approve the campus’s latest master plan next week, said John Lehman, Tech’s vice president for university relations and enrollment.

“As we look to our strategic plan, we see the capacity to grow,” Lehman said. “The question we have before us is how do we fulfill that growth demand in a manner that honors what Michigan Tech education is all about, that honors the traditions and the culture and the method of care that the Michigan Tech education is about, and in a way that’s smart, measurable and doesn’t put any undue stress on us.”

Over the next 13 to 15 years, Tech is aiming for 2.75% growth per year, eventually adding 150 to 170 students per year, Lehman said.

Online classes through Tech’s new Global Campus Initiative will account for some of the growth, mostly in graduate students, Lehman said. Even setting aside online students, in-person enrollment is expected to add 800 more students in-town by 2030.

Tech is looking at ways to accommodate that growth. Increased residential hall beds on campus would cover about 490 students. Current Tech enrollment is about 7,073 students, down from the 7,300 students Tech had in 2017.

“Is that bed capacity still in the local community or not?” Lehman said. “It’s an open question.”

The new residence hall would be built on land currently taken up by parking, which would need to be replaced elsewhere, Lehman said.

Tech will also review the mobility of students both on-campus and off-campus as it tries to project what automotive transportation will look like 15 years from now, Lehman said.

Chair Tom Merz asked if Tech still planned to expand the campus south of U.S. 41. Lehman said multiple phases of Tech’s plan will fill in the area between the Student Development Complex and U.S. 41 at MacInnes Drive.

Planning Commission member Brad Baltensperger asked how Tech balanced shorter-term goals based on projections versus longer-term goals, such as Tech’s previously stated goal of getting to 10,000 students.

Lehman said with the lower numbers of high-school graduates anticipated in Michigan over the next several years,

“We’ve got to look at that short-term issue and concentrate on those incremental changes before we worry about the long-term,” he said.

In other action, the commission:

• Heard from city manager Eric Waara the city has hired Amy Zawada as community and business development director. Additionally, the Department of Public Works has removed the red sign stanchions on Sharon Avenue and Ridge Road.

• Heard an update from Waara on the city’s new pier, which is scheduled to have concrete poured today. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday to kick off the city’s inaugural Fall Fest, which will run from 11 to 3 p.m.

• Heard from Waara the response rate to the city’s master plan survey was around 22%, compared to a percentage in the mid-40s during the previous survey. However, this year’s survey was sent to hundreds more people than the previous iteration, still making for a good response rate in comparison.

• Scheduled the regular November and December meetings for Nov. 15 and Dec. 13.


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