Photo of the Wildcat Recreation Center, scheduled to open April 2009
Planning for the Future

CSU, Chico is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful and student-friendly campuses of the CSU system. The Romanesque brick buildings imbue the campus core with an old-world charm, and the lush campus grounds provide a tranquil backdrop on even the busiest of school days.

With the recent opening of the Student Services Center, a new era of building has begun on campus (see chart). The attractive four-story structure not only offers a grand entrance to the campus, it also espouses the University’s strategic goal of sustainability by adhering to certified green building standards—it is among the first buildings in the CSU system to be designed for Gold LEED certification. The 120,000-square-foot facility incorporates green concepts such as proximity to alternative transportation, environmentally friendly landscape design, Energy Star compliant components, and energy-efficient equipment.

Although the Student Services Center definitely has a contemporary appeal, it also reflects some of the basic elements of the older buildings.

“The historic core of the campus is the memory of the campus, its heart, and as the campus grew over decades, certain architectural characteristics were drawn from that core and used in each building’s architecture—the most prominent feature, of course, is the use of brick,” says Richard Thompson, a principal at the architectural firm AC Martin Partners and a consultant for the University’s 2005 Master Plan. “The result is a rather loose sense of harmony among the buildings.”

In the past year, three more buildings have broken ground on campus: the Wildcat Recreation Center, Sutter Hall (a new residence and dining hall), and the Northern California Natural History Museum. With the Student Services Center, they are the first structures built under the updated Master Plan introduced by President Paul Zingg in 2005. The culmination of five years of intensive work, the 2005 Master Plan proposes the construction of five new major academic buildings, two recreational facilities, a natural history museum, a child care center, about 1,300 bed-spaces of student housing, and two parking structures, along with other building and renovation projects.

“Closely tied to the University Strategic Plan, the Master Plan affirms a compelling set of goals, none of which are more important than building a community of learning and hope worthy of the trust that our students and the people of California have placed in us,” says CSU, Chico President Paul Zingg.

Other important goals of the Master Plan include accommodating increased enrollment, protecting the University’s distinctive living and learning environment as a residential campus, and strengthening the relationship the University has with its host city. Also important to the campus is affirming the harmony between its natural and built environments.

In the course of preparing for the updated Master Plan, work began on a document that would provide guiding principles related to cultural resources that might be uncovered during construction and renovation on campus. The University sits on lands originally inhabited by Maidu Indians. Then-executive dean and director of Facilities Planning Greg Francis and director of the Archaeological Research Program Greg White worked closely with representatives of the Mechoopda Tribe, descendents of the Maidu, on creating a Memorandum of Understanding that would protect, preserve, and manage the cultural resources that may be identified on campus. The agreement resulted in numerous formal and informal meetings with tribal representatives on the campus.

“CSU, Chico is unique among the CSU campuses in possessing so many cultural resources related to tribal history and prehistory,” says White. “In fact, campus grounds include property that was held in Mechoopda tribal trust as recently as the early 1950s. The Mechoopda are indeed the respected first peoples of the land.”

On Oct. 28, 2005, an overflowing crowd filled Trinity Hall 100 for a ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between CSU, Chico and the Mechoopda Tribe. Steve Santos, tribal chairman, was the first from the tribe to sign the document. Santos says he believes that the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the University and the Mechoopda Tribe is extremely significant.

“The University and the tribe have a vested interest in the protection of cultural resources on lands that the University occupies,” says Santos. “The agreement ensures that we will work together to preserve those discoveries. This agreement is a recognition of the Mechoopda people as the indigenous people from this area. The history of the people is protected.”

Creating a vision for the future of the campus incorporates more than just planning for its outward appearance. Above all, says Zingg, the Master Plan communicates values. “We declare our commitment to environmental sensitivity and respect, and to sustainable building and living practices,” he notes in the 2005 Master Plan. “We affirm openness through a barrier-free campus. We demonstrate civic engagement as a good neighbor and partner with the city of Chico, committed to building a stronger, safer, and more desirable community together. We express confidence in our identity and pride in our story.”

To watch a video of the 2005 Master Plan called “A Spirit of Place and Purpose,” go to

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