Going to work at Kansas University's Nichols Hall used to be a bit like a wildlife expedition for Nancy Hanson.
"It used to be very common, coming up here and going home in the afternoon to see a lot of deer grazing in the field," she said. "I remember seeing a coyote and a fox. You still see them occasionally, but not as often."
In the 27 years Hanson has worked on KU's west campus, the area has been transformed from a seldom-used green space with about eight buildings to a center of activity with about two dozen buildings.
With KU's main campus mostly out of room for new buildings, the portion of campus west of Iowa Street is expected to become an even more important part of KU in the future.
"Fifteen years ago, why would you go to west campus?" said David Shulenburger, provost and executive vice chancellor. "The Lied Center wasn't there. The Endowment Association had a little building down the street. The Dole Institute (of Politics) wasn't even a gleam in someone's eye. There's something out there all the time to go to now."
West campus - which encompasses most of the area south of Bob Billings Parkway, west of Iowa Street, north of 23rd Street and east of Kasold Drive - got its beginnings in 1923, when the KU Endowment Association purchased 220 acres. It added another 260 acres with purchases in 1962 and 1963.
In both eras, some grumbled that the Endowment Association was spending money on land the university might never need.
More than 80 years since the first purchase, the Endowment Association now has deeded about 80 acres of the campus to KU for buildings and athletic fields. The KU land is home to Lied Center shows, Dole Institute speakers, the Kansas geological and biological surveys and facilities operations workers.
That leaves 400 acres remaining for future use.
"We hold west campus in trust for the entire university, awaiting the day when new needs arise," said Dale Seuferling, president of the Endowment Association.
It's a prospect that makes officials at other universities drool.
"Our core of campus has very little building space," said Jim Wilson, real estate director for the University of Texas at Austin. "We're landlocked. I've been making a pitch for the last 20-some-odd years that universities must do a better job in their master planning process. It doesn't take long for a major university to get a few (research) programs and gobble up hundreds of acres of land."
But that growth doesn't come without a price, even when KU has extra land for its use.
KU officials are trying to find new ways to get researchers between the west campus and main campus. Professors and their assistants often have departmental offices on the main campus, with research labs out west.
The Structural Biology Center, which was completed late last year, and the Multidisciplinary Research Building, a $40 million facility slated for completion in December, have added to the problem.
Donna Hultine, director of parking for KU, said a transit task force working this summer is trying to devise a shuttle system between the two sections of campus.
"We can't really afford to build a parking space for these people on both campuses," she said. "We recognize we have to do something different."
Warren Corman, university architect, said he thought research would continue being a major focus for the west campus in the future.
A university master plan calls for a circular drive near the Multidisciplinary Research Building, to be lined with future research facilities.
He said KU would do what it could to maintain the feel of the main portion of campus.
"We're trying to tie it in," Corman said. "We'll probably do the landscaping similar, signage similar. Of course, they're all newer buildings, and modern. They're not going to match the old terra cotta of Strong Hall or the limestone of Bailey."
Corman said having the west campus land available gives the university many options for expansion it wouldn't have otherwise.
"You talk about foresight," he said. "And to think people were so mad they'd spend money on something they didn't need."
Expansion timeline for KU's west campus
1923 - KU Endowment Association purchases 220 acres west of Iowa Street.
1960 - Youngberg Hall, formerly home to the Center for Research in Engineering Science and the KU Endowment Association, opens. It now houses the KU Center for Research.
1962 and 1963 - KU purchases an additional 260 acres for west campus. On some of that property is the Chamney House, an old dairy farm that now houses the Center for Design Research studio.
1966 - Bridwell Botany Research Laboratory completed.
1968 - Parker Hall, which houses part of the Kansas Geological Survey, opens.
1968 - Printing Services building opens. With the closing of Printing Services earlier this year, the building soon will hold biodiversity research collections and the KU Public Safety Office.
1969 - Takeru Higuchi Hall, which now houses the Kansas Biological Survey, opens.
1971 - McCollum Laboratories, part of the Higuchi Biosciences Research Area, opens.
1971 - Nichols Hall, home to the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, opens.
1973 - Moore Hall, home to part of the Kansas Geological Survey, opens.
1978 - Smissman Research Laboratories, part of the Higuchi Biosciences Research Area, opens.
1980 - Foley Hall, which now houses Monarch Watch, opens.
1983 - Hambleton Hall, which houses part of the Kansas Geological Survey, opens.
1990 - Kurata Thermodynamics Laboratories opens.
1990 - University Press of Kansas warehouse opens.
1991 - Pharmaceutical Chemistry Laboratories, part of the Higuchi Biosciences Research Area, opens.
1991 - University Press of Kansas building opens.
1993 - Lied Center, home to a 2,000-seat performing arts auditorium, opens.
1996 - Dolph Simons Sr. Biosciences Research Laboratories, part of the Higuchi Biosciences Research Area, opens.
1998 - KU Endowment Association Building opens.
2003 - Dole Institute of Politics opens.
2004 - Structural Biology Center opens.
2005 - Planned opening of the Multidisciplinary Research Building.
2006 - Planned opening for the Library Annex.