Insights: Campus-Placemaking Transformation via Infrastructure Upgrades

Aging infrastructure on college campuses throughout the country is coming due for replacement and modernization.  Having recently completed our eighth campus-wide underground infrastructure upgrade, C&S has discovered that the short-term disruption of surfaces to construct new underground utility systems can, in fact, generate new opportunities for long-term, aboveground campus transformation.

Multi-year infrastructure projects require careful planning and execution to keep campuses open and accessible through construction. The systems of gas, water, steam, hot water, sanitary, data, and electric – normally hidden assets – are replaced in a systematic, phased approach so campus activities can continue undisturbed. The intense, thoughtful planning exercise done on the infrastructure side is also done, with equal care, on the grade-level improvement side, with more visible benefits. What better time to upgrade the campus landscape then when tearing up sidewalks, lawns, planters, stairs, and other campus attributes to run all the new underground utilities? C&S and its landscape-architect consultants spend considerable planning and design effort to reshape the campus aboveground.

More and more, our team has turned its attentions to placemaking, a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being. It has been noted that successful public spaces generally share four qualities: they are accessible; people are engaged in activities there; the space is comfortable and has a good image; and finally, it is a sociable place, one where people meet and interact.

University and college campuses are communities unto themselves, often interwoven with neighboring communities as well.  The more open spaces that encourage participation and collaboration in learning or social activities, the better.

“The College was aware that the underground utilities, landscaping, and hardscaping at our North Campus area were failing and in need of repairs and replacements. C&S provided excellent service to the College during all the phases of this project. This project was tremendously beneficial to the College.”

John Osowski, The College at Brockport

One of our recent placemaking projects involved the replacement of the Hawkins Hall pond – already considered a campus treasure – at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh. After the below-grade infrastructure was replaced, we rebuilt the pond with more gathering spaces and seating, more lawn area to relax on, and a learning lobe for the plant enthusiast in all of us! Our project at SUNY Morrisville included terraced bench seating built into a hill and flattening a sloped area to include a patio with gathering tables. At SUNY’s Brockport North Campus, art work was showcased along all new ADA-accessible paths, where we created greater cross-campus connectivity with the south and west campuses as well. At all campuses, pathway lighting was greatly enhanced to encourage walking, gathering, and socializing into the evenings.

With careful planning and a placemaking theme in mind, what might start out as an underground infrastructure project can indeed become your next campus transformation!

Tyler Long, ENV SP
Project Engineer

Tyler can be contacted at 315-703-4216 or

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