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Manatee Community College/State College of Florida
Prime Consultant, Copley Design Associates, Inc., Landscape Architecture


The approach to the Manatee Community College campus and the Stephen Korcheck Student Services Center used to be an uninspiring and unadorned roadway leading to an unwelcoming parking lot. Large date palms and smaller sabal palms now line the main entrance boulevard. The median showcases Goldmond lantana, pink hibiscus, Variegated Confederate jasmine, Indian Hawthorn and Crinum lily.



Established in 1957, Manatee Community College, later renamed State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF), is the region's first and largest public college, serving 27,000 students annually at campuses in Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Venice. The college is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It has graduated 47,000 students since 1959, and is an integral part of the community, offering educational, athletic, cultural/theater art venues and local partnerships.

The year prior to commissioning Copley Design Associates, Inc., Landscape Architecture, the college board hired a design consultant to renovate the campus, not only to solve some immediate issues, but to enhance the aesthetics. The resulting design did not meet the board's expectations, and the design was shelved.


The pylon sign at the main entrance to the campus includes illuminated routed letters, backlit bands and sign face. The brick, as with the kiosks, matches the brick veneering on the campus buildings.

Improving the campus aesthetics was still the primary objective. The board felt the campus appearance was adversely affecting enrollments, and there were safety issues that could no longer be ignored. The board once again sought a design team, this time led by a landscape architectural firm. Copley Design Associates, Inc. received the design commission. The firm is based in Streetsboro, Ohio, but also has an office in Clearwater, Florida. Drew Copley, the principal landscape architect, has over 35 years in the green industry. Drew received his MLA from the University of Florida. He also has a degree in ornamental horticulture degree from Delaware Valley College and is a certified arborist. The broad challenge for the firm was to renew the look of the campus image, enhance campus life for students, faculty and employees, promote interactive community involvement and visually strengthen recruitment potential.

The site lacked a unifying campus identity. There was essentially no campus "entry" nor wayfinding. Visitors were left searching for the admissions office and administrative buildings. A strong campus edge was also lacking, minimizing its presence in the community. The campus boundary in fact was an eye sore, consisted of dead grass, a drainage ditch and the less than desirable views of the parking lots. The security lighting was limited. Parking and walkways were deteriorated and hazardous, creating safety liabilities. The aging landscape was overgrown, proving difficult to maintain and was unattractive. Additional parking was required, however, there was limited area for expansion. Furthermore, both parking and walkways were ADA noncompliant.


Informational kiosks offer directories, student flyers, LCD screens and college video feeds. The sign has illuminated routed letters and backlit bands. The brick selection and metal roof matches campus buildings.

Given that the site topography was extremely flat, site drainage was a problem. There was frequent flooding of parking, walkways and grounds. The scrapping of the original design plan from the prior year had left the college behind in its projected refurbishments. A sense of urgency to get a design in place and work completed were primary challenges for the design team. As classes are in session year round, it was inherently challenging to develop a successful construction schedule.

The design focus for Copley Design Associates was on improving the community presence; delineating the campus edge with new signage, wayfinding and landscaping; and strengthening and defining campus entrances, including a main boulevard feature to the administration/admissions buildings.


Once an unsightly walled-in retention area, the pond was redesigned, eliminating the retaining walls and regraded to provide smooth slopes down to the water's edge. Fountains, seating, picnic areas and a lawn for sunning were added to the new park. Plantings include red Ixra, Weeping Yaupon holly, Weeping Willows, oaks and elms.

"We reconfigured the parking lots to include a new inner drive loop for easier and safer access to the campus buildings, added new lighting to parking lots, walkways and drives, illuminated signage and boulevard trees," explain principal Drew Copley. A much-needed public bus stop, pull-off and shelter were added along the right-of-way adjacent to campus main entry.

"We created a campus wide identity, integrating environmentally-friendly landscape, signage, site furnishings and hardscape features with complementary materials, colors and textures," Copley adds.


A circular pool and jetting fountains welcome those to the Administrative and Admissions Building entry, drop off and visitor parking area. Variegated Arboricola and topiary Podocarpus festoon the fountain base.

The final design provided uniform identity signage and electronic message centers at each of the four corner intersections of the site, harmonizing the campus edge with grass berms, trees and landscape. Reducing the vehicular entrances streamlined traffic control on campus and on adjacent roads, resulting in fewer backups at the entrances and exits, making it easier and safer entering and leaving the campus. Wayfinding was added to each entry and along the proposed inner campus loop drive, assisting visitors to quickly locate their destination. For pedestrians, interactive information kiosks were installed along walkways. A welcoming grand entrance boulevard was designed to link the main campus entrance to the administrative/admission building, which included visitor parking and an inviting reception. In total, 11 parking lots were redesigned. The existing parking drive isles and stalls were regraded and rotated 90 degrees. The renovated parking lot configuration included ADA and motorcycle parking spaces, landscape islands, lighting and new striping and paving.

The new design has substantially increased safety, and has improved fire and emergency access to buildings. Storm water runoff is now under control, despite adding 5-7% more spaces within most parking lots with limited pavement expansion.

Construction Schedule
With the year round student and class activity on campus, a precise construction schedule was vital. This required Copley Design to concentrate in completing one parking area at a time, on a rotational schedule; to accommodate for the loss of parking under construction, a temporary lot was created. The construction schedule was divided into 11 phases which included two scope additions; an entry plaza to the theater/auditorium and roadway/parking renovation to the campus maintenance facility. The design team coordinated with the college facilities director and contractor to successfully complete this project on plan, on time and on budget.

As seen in LASN magazine, June 2017.

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May 19, 2019, 12:14 am PDT

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