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Campus, community grow together

MAY 6, 2010

The Frangos Group real estate firm launched the College Town project in 2008, giving Cleveland State University a taste of what many other universities experience. The completed space will consist of 378 housing units as well as 98,000 square feet of retail. This project will create space for CSU students to live in as well as fill up some of the now empty areas downtown.

“Cleveland has 15,000 vacant lots presently,” says Professor Norman Krumholz of the College of Urban Affairs.

College Town offers a revitalization of the area around CSU.

“New residents, new shops and restaurants, street life, urban vitality and stronger context means a more marketable CSU,” says Paul Volpe, the architect heading the project.

Among the models for CSU’s College Town are schools like Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University Circle area.

The University of Minneapolis is also an example of a college town working for a school. Located on the north side of campus is DinkyTown, serving as a community for both the students and neighborhood residents. While many on-campus students seek housing in DinkyTown, those who do not live on campus frequent the community as well for its dining and retail.

DinkyTown boasts more than 30 restaurants, from small locally owned places like The Library Bar to popular chains like Pizza Hut. The shops are almost all exclusive to the area, with such places as Cunningham Books and Erik’s Bike Shop.

CSU could benefit greatly from incorporating such diverse retail to accommodate current and future students.

“There is great pent-up demand for basic retail,” student Michael Rogalski says. “A college town will be a great success.”

University City in Philadelphia, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, is home to cafes, retail, and even museums and theaters. Students of several colleges can both socialize and live here.

“This type of development would be perfect for downtown,” says Rogalski. “There is a significant demand for housing.”

Many at CSU agree that students and faculty may benefit from having stores that offer groceries, clothing and a pharmacy open late.

“I think it would be successful,” says one CSU student who wishes to remain anonymous. “Student friendly pricing with dining.”

Because of these college towns and university cities, many colleges are thriving.

Downtown Bowling Green was there first but is now affiliated with Bowling Green State University. With 42 retail stores, 17 restaurants and three hotels, Downtown BG can give students a real taste of home.

Because of BGSU, the city of Bowling Green has prospered. And for students leery of carrying cash, “Downtown Dollars” can be purchased to use as currency at a number of locations.

CSU now allows students to put “Viking cash” onto their ID cards, making spending money on campus a much safer experience. This form of payment could be expanded to whatever stores are implemented in College Town, quelling any concerns about muggings.

“I expect places to eat and boutique shopping that caters to students as well as neighborhood services that serve the neighborhood residents will emerge in time,” says Volpe.

Students who live off-campus come for classes and then leave. Right now many see no real reason to stay and loiter around the CSU campus. A college town atmosphere could change that.

“A lot of students here don’t feel any sort of real connection to the school,” says Jasmine Golphin, a third year student at CSU. “The commuters just come to class and go home.”
College Town could change the distinction between the resident students and commuters and provide reasons for students and faculty to stay around campus.