Expanded dining hall and Rounds staircase among DumontJanks master plan proposals

James Kelly


Opinions Editor


Imagine you are walking by the HUB towards Prospect Dining Hall, Gregory Janks told the audience at a Campus Master Plan info session on Thursday. “What do you see?” Janks asked.

Trash. You see trash and trucks. “At the head of our magnificent, historic quad is the loading dock for the dining hall,” Janks said. “The back part, where we put all our garbage cans and where the trucks come.” That’s not the way a professional would’ve drawn it up, he said. And while the historic core of campus around Rounds and Mary Lyon halls were well planned, later additions to campus, which came in the 1950s, were not. “There actually was no plan,” architect Ricardo Dumont said. “We just started putting buildings down.”

The solution to Prospect’s ugly underside? Janks and Dumont, of the Boston-based DumontJanks architectural planning firm, suggest expanding the top floor of the dining hall so it hangs over the loading dock. An expansion would “put all the service functions in the shadow” of the top level, Dumont said. There would be enough clearance for trucks, and it would pull eyes away from the eyesore. DumontJanks also proposed changes to make High Street itself more pedestrian-friendly, like increased signage and a new sidewalk on the north side of the street.

DumontJanks’s dining hall proposal is one of many for Plymouth State to potentially include in its master plan, which will be a long-term framework for developing the school’s campus. “The product will be a flexible roadmap that Plymouth State will continuously refer to for its sustainable development, fiscal vitality, and preservation of our capital assets,” the university said in an email.

An alternative DumontJanks plan gets rid of Prospect altogether, puts an outdoor space in its place – one student suggested an amphitheater – and builds a new dining hall in the parking lot next to Hyde. Dumont admitted the cost to build a new dining hall would likely be too large, though.

Other proposals for the master plan include new student townhouses along High Street, a “central park” with new residence halls to replace the White Mountain Apartments, and an improved walkway between Rounds and Main Street.

DumontJanks believes Plymouth State’s connection with the town, and more specifically Main Street, is a great asset. The school and the town are “a beautiful entity together,” Janks said. Many of their plans look to expand that. The school could build “a great series of steps and terraces” next to Rounds Hall to better connect the campus with Main Street, Dumont said. To keep the passage snow-free, DumontJanks would run the heating pipes for Rounds under the staircase.

Student and faculty concerns about parking and safe walking routes to Holderness went largely unanswered, including concerns that new buildings would replace existing parking lots. “There’s already not a lot of parking,” one student said. “I’m a commuter and I’m already fighting for parking spots every morning,” said another. Janks acknowledged their concerns but did not offer specific solutions. “If we were to move forward on [the townhouses], we would definitely need to have a solution for parking,” he said. And since the only way to get to the Holderness part of campus is over the bridge, making AllWell and the ice arena more accessible to pedestrians “is not an easy problem to solve.”

The Holderness problem represents a greater challenge for the master plan: new construction must work around physical limitations. Though the Pemigewasset River is beautiful, it is an obstacle, as are its floodplain and ridge. The PSU campus is over 100 years old, so the master plan must also consider buildings that already exist and how to best use them. “The easiest thing would be to say, ‘We’re just going to start over. Let’s just demolish half the campus and build 83 new buildings and 16 new parking garages,’ and solve all of our problems that way,” Janks said. “The only problem with that is, we’re never going to have the money to do all that.” 

PSU is currently seeking student input on the master plan through the Plymouth State University Community Mapping exercise, which asks which parts of campus are most important to you. The exercise takes roughly 10 minutes.