Campus - 03.11.2014 - 00:00
3 November 2014. At a media information meeting on 3 November, Cantonal Education Minister Stefan Kölliker emphasised the significance of the HSG. As one of Europe’s leading business universities, it enjoyed an excellent international reputation and thanks to its worldwide network was an important flagship for the region and the Canton of St.Gallen. It therefore also played a central role in the Canton’s location promotion policy. In addition, it made a substantial contribution to the regional aggregate income to the tune of more than CHF 200m per annum.
Infrastructure fails to keep pace with growth
In the past few years, this good reputation has resulted in a distinctive growth in student numbers, said HSG President Thomas Bieger. What was less gratifying was the resulting room shortage, which was getting increasingly worse. Temporary provisional buildings and extended times of use were no longer able to balance the disproportion between the existing infrastructure and the number of students.
The room shortage was able to be alleviated in 2011 with the inauguration of the renovated and extended University, which boosted room capacity to approx. 5,000 students. This extension phase focused on the renovation and extension of the 1960s “Förderer buildings”. The existing Library Building with a capacity for 3,500 students, however, remained unchanged.
At present, though, a total of about 8,000 students are studying at the HSG (as at September 2014). The University’s Board of Governors expects the growth to level out and student numbers to reach a plateau of 8,000 to 9,000. The acute room shortage at the HSG does not only affect teaching and research but also the Library, in particular, where there are not enough learning stations for students, as well as the Administration. Against this background, said Executive Director Markus Brönnimann, a systematic planning process was launched and strategies were developed.
The following principles were defined for the next extension step:
Two locations as an ideal solution
On the basis of these principles, the HSG’s room requirements were determined. It proved that an extension carried out exclusively at the Girtannersberg (Rosenberg) location would only be possible with highly densified construction and the exhaustion of all land reserves existing there. In order to avoid this to ensure that future generations would still have the benefit of land reserves and in order to take the pressure off the Rotmonten district, a second location was examined at the Platztor (near Unterer Graben), as Cantonal Construction Minister Willi Haag explained.
This resulted in the following approach to a solution: at today’s location, the campus should provide room for about 5,500 students in future. The University Library should be extended in order to create more working and learning stations for students. On the municipal Platztor property, a new location for teaching and research is planned with a capacity for approx. 3,000 students. This building should also have sufficient room for the Executive Education full-time MBA and for utilisation by third parties.
The overall costs of the above construction project cannot yet be quantified in detail on the basis of the present project stage. Besides the Canton and the Confederation, donors and third parties are expected to contribute to the funding in any case. The cantonal investment plan currently reports a cantonal contribution of CHF 140m to the extension of the University.
Integrating the University in the city
In order to make the project feasible, the Municipal Council will bring a motion before the Municipal Parliament to sell the Platztor property to the Canton for university use. A university campus in the city centre was an interesting development perspective for St.Gallen, said Mayor Thomas Scheitlin. The new university area with its various applications would enhance the eastern part of the city centre. It would also provide an opportunity to integrate the University more strongly into city life.
Municipal Councillor Patrizia Adam emphasised that needless to say, the project would also have to satisfy high standards in terms of urban construction and design. Owing to its location, the new University campus would have to be realised with high densification, a prominent volume, an urban character, but with attractive free spaces. Assessments conducted by an expert on urban construction and architecture had shown that the room programmes could be realised with good solutions that were compatible with the city quarter. In connection with the special utilisation plan and the amendments to the land-use plans, in particular, the further involvement of the Municipal Parliament and the citizens would be guaranteed. The Platztor location would also result in advantages for the Rotmonten and Rosenberg quarters, which would see a reduction in traffic. In addition, properties used by the University could be returned for housing purposes, which would meet a demand made by the City.
The next steps
The Municipal Parliament is expected to debate the sale of the Platztor property at its meeting of 18 November 2014. If it approves the sale, the Canton will draw up a project definition by the end of 2015. In autumn 2016, a dispatch to the Cantonal Government drawn up on this basis should be ready. The parliamentary process and the popular vote will be completed by autumn 2017. If the voting public adopts the project, the competition process can start in 2018. According to this timetable, the extended university should be operational by 2025.
The Canton, the City and the University intend to inform the genral public about the construction project and cultivate a dialogue with the population on the shared platform www.zukunftHSG.ch.
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