Land Use Plan

As part of this update to the 2003 Master Plan, a campus Land Use Plan was developed which clusters similar activities and programs into identifiable zones.  This fosters community, provides an order and sense of place, improved interdisciplinary interaction, and improves efficiency.  Each zone has an atmosphere and physical environment that best supports and identifies the uses within it.  These land use zones help inform how the UMBC campus approaches building and open space development, utility distribution, vehicular and pedestrian circulation, and parking.  The links between diverse zones are planned and implemented in ways that foster collaboration and collegiality.

The campus can be characterized into seven basic land use zones.  Each has distinct characteristics which support the various activities within the specific zone.  The scale and density of buildings, the types and quality of open spaces, the type of access, and diverse uses all contribute to the overall atmosphere and success of each part of campus.  The UMBC land use zones include: Student Life, Academic, Residential, Athletics, Outreach, Natural Areas, and Support and Service.  Click here to enlarge The Campus Land Use Plan.

Student Life

UMBC is proud of its “student centered” philosophy.  It is clearly evident even in the physical campus.  Land uses are organized around the central Student Life zone which is flanked by academic uses to the south and residential uses to the north.  The Student Life zone acts as the bridge between academics and residential life.  It embraces The Commons and the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery at the center of campus.  



The Academic zone includes almost all of the instruction and research programs.  The traditional core of campus reaches to the main south entry   to the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery.  The intent is to develop the precincts for academic expansion matching the successful densities of the existing academic core, using limited land resources as efficiently as possible.   


The Residential zone is located to the north of the Academic and Student Life zones. As the percentage of students living on campus has increased over the years, the University has responded by developing new, higher-density residential communities offering a variety of housing options appealing to today’s students.  As the student population continues to grow, new residential facilities will be modeled after our most successful communities, organized around intimate courtyards.


The Athletics land use zone, located to the south and east of the Academic land use zone, is isolated due to the hilly terrain and its location outside of Hilltop Circle.  With the continued consolidation of Athletic programs in this area, the need to interconnect with adjoining land uses rises in importance.  Steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of Hilltop Circle to better connect athletic facilities and programs back to the campus community with increased visibility and access.


The Outreach land use zones are strategically located near the three main entries to campus.  This not only provides ideal access for such programs, but also places these activities adjacent to academic, research and residential activities, providing improved opportunities for future economic development partnerships, alumni outreach and research centers for collaboration with external partners.   

Natural Areas

Deciduous forests surround the campus on the north, east, and southern sides.  The largest tract is within the CERA and is comprised of a wide variety of ecological conditions, including mature upland forest, early- and mid- successional forest, and riparian and wetland environments.  To protect, preserve, and integrate these natural areas a distinct land use zone was developed in this plan.  The campus framework provides for improved connectivity into and within the Natural Areas zones to create opportunities for recreation, education and research while increasing awareness of the natural environment.   

Support and Service

The University’s principal support and service functions are currently located on the eastern edge of campus, adjacent to the campus entry along Poplar Avenue.  Designating this area as the Support and Service land use zone is ideal now and in the future due to its ease of access, adjacency to the eastern Outreach land use zone, and ability to support all other land use zones in an efficient manner.