Skip to main content
Ideas / Client Stories / 2.29.2024

Coppin State University Looks to the Future

Coppin State University low aerial

When Coppin State University engaged us to work with them on their 2022 Facilities Master Plan, our planning studio was excited by the opportunity to help a preeminent anchor in West Baltimore – and one of the city’s two Historically Black Institutions – to better fulfill its mission of lifelong learning and transformative experiences for students from all socio-economic backgrounds.

The university already has much to celebrate. Nestled in the heart of West Baltimore, its campus serves as an oasis within the urban fabric, providing regular cultural programming and a clean, green place for people in the local community to walk and enjoy. In recent years, the university has made wise investments in their on-campus facilities, including high-quality facilities for athletics, teaching, and learning to better serve student needs. The university is also home to strong athletic and recreation programs benefiting the campus and local community as well as Coppin Academy, a public charter school for local students.

Keeping those strengths in mind, the university needed a framework for physical planning looking ahead over the next decade and beyond to:

  1. Establish a long-term road map for the development of the physical campus
  2. Ensure short-term investments in the campus are aligned with the long-term vision
  3. Prioritize projects and campus improvements
  4. Organize a collaborative process to gather broad input and feedback from diverse voices across the entire Coppin community.

Excited to help celebrate Coppin’s unique identity, our team jumped right into the engagement process in 2021. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we conducted virtual listening sessions with university leaders, faculty, staff, students, and the surrounding community. We also conducted a space needs assessment to determine how much space is needed to support current activities and future goals. In the end, we provided a road map for the future of campus, including identified projects and interventions needed over the next 20 years to achieve that vision.  Recommendations for the plan range in scale from large-scale new construction projects to specific paving patterns for various campus pathways.

Overall, our plan is structured around four action-themed principles: connect, invigorate, amplify, and grow.


Connect: Provide greater connectivity within campus and to the larger city of Baltimore.

Building on Coppin’s already clearly defined campus core, our team recommended strengthening connections on campus to help visitors and the campus community navigate effectively and feel a sense of place. Among our suggestions are a hierarchy of pathways to clarify campus connections and help visitors and the campus community navigate campus more intuitively; consistent plantings and furnishings to promote visual continuity; and significant investments in sustainable strategies addressing energy, stormwater management, and social sustainability as well as improved accessibility and wayfinding to foster inclusion and equal access.

We also provided recommendations to help the university open its doors to the local community with improvements to transit, bike, and pedestrian access and shaped new buildings and landscape in ways that gesture open to adjacent neighborhoods.

Coppin State University New Campus Entry Rendering
Rendering of an improved campus entry framed by a new residence hall and library addition

Invigorate: Enhance the experience for all students.

Investing in the student experience is fundamental to Coppin’s success and a core focus of the strategic plan. We recommended the creation of student-centered hubs, renovations to academic facilities and outdoor spaces, enhanced collaboration spaces, and additional housing, recreation, dining, wellness, and support spaces.

Greek life is an important component of the main student quad, so our plan embraced and elevated the Devine Nine while also proposing landscape improvements to be purposefully inclusive for all students. We also encouraged the addition of interactive outdoor elements to add campus vibrancy and promote belonging, social interactions, and a more active student life – key elements for recruiting talented students and ensuring student success.

See a 360-degree rendering of proposed quad improvements below:


Amplify: Elevate the campus identity and sense of pride.

Coppin pride is palpable throughout the campus community, and we wanted to amplify that in the physical environment. Our plan recommends that the university continue to invest in key signage, branding, and cultural markers that have helped communicate its history and identity to the campus community, visitors, and surrounding neighborhoods.

Investments in campus entries and thresholds can help create a welcoming environment and positive first impression, while strategically placed signage and art can build pride surrounding Coppin’s 100-year legacy of academic excellence, colorful traditions, and deep community roots. Environmental graphic design interventions for multiple aging buildings on campus is an immediate next step currently under design and moving into implementation.

Environmental graphics for Coppin State University designed by our graphics design studio
Environmental graphics designed by our graphics design studio
Coppin State University Johnson Auditorium Replacement rendering
A rendering of a Johnson Auditorium replacement and reimagined streetscape along North Avenue

Grow: Sustainably support campus-wide growth and academic innovation.

Looking ahead to future enrollment and programmatic growth, we identified potential sites for new development that would reinforce and build upon the campus’s already strong framework. We also proposed several priority projects that would meet the university’s projected 10-year space needs while optimizing investment on campus.

Proposed projects include new and renovated residence halls, student-centered buildings for amenities, a new auditorium, a baseball stadium, and improvements to athletic and recreation facilities, as well as open campus spaces. Wherever possible, we recommend prioritizing renovations over demolition and new construction to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable development.

Coppin State University Facilities Master Plan low aerial
An aerial rendering of proposed facilities improvements

Plan reception and looking ahead

When developing a facilities plan of this depth and consideration, our dream as planners is that it will be put to good use. It’s our hope that clients will act on these ideas and bring some of these recommendations to life to transform their campuses and communities.

Based on our ongoing relationship with Coppin State, I can confidently say that they feel strongly about the future of the university and are excited to build on its long legacy. The facilities plan we developed together ties closely with the university’s strategic goals. Since our plan was issued, the university has already taken action on a few key recommendations, including bringing in our graphic design studio to help extend the Coppin State brand into the physical environment. Ayers Saint Gross designed engaging branded environments for four key buildings on campus, with implementation moving forward within the year.

These thoughtful and strategic changes to the Coppin campus experience add to the excitement for what awaits this area of West Baltimore and its community. As campus planners, we’re excited to be a part of it.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now