Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Model Student Model

I had the opportunity to visit Detroit today, to attend a lecture at Wayne State university on the topic of "Eds and Meds" and their impact on the urban condition. "Eds and Meds," if you are unfamiliar, stands for "Education and Medical" and the lecture discussed how traditional industries have been replaced by colleges and hospitals in many of our nations center cities. One of the speakers was Omar Blaik, a former vice president of the University of Pennsylvania who spearheaded a 2 billion (yes, with a b) redevelopment effort in that university's host neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

Several months back, I asked the question; "why are so many people attracted to the idea of a 'college town' atmosphere in Flint?" It seems that this desire, in varying degrees, is present for communities around the country. I would venture to say that few people would categorize Detroit as a college town, but the community is taking steps to take advantage of the collegiate population by promoting the benefits associated with "college towns"

An interesting trend that I have noticed, is that many of these benefits associated with "college towns" are simply the benefits of urban living. Things like cultural institutions, independent retail, and nightlife, all accessible by foot. Could it be that our common psyche has become so removed from .... that the only time many of us have experienced those benefits were in actual college towns, where students had to walk from their housing to their needs? If this is the case, we are grossly misunderstanding the reasons for the that type of community interaction. Students living in traditional college towns don't walk because they are students, they walk because they are A) poor, and B) live in close proximity to their needs. Surrounding businesses also flourish because of their proximity to walking students. It is a lot easier to see a shop's window displays, hear a bar's live acts, or smell a cafè's speciality when you are not buzzing by at 35 mph, but walking by on your way back from class.

So, why can't these principles be applied to a non-collegiate population? I find it strange that so many bank on the idea that the typically broke college student is the magic key to unlocking economic success. By simply creating (or preserving) environments that encourage their behaviors, most populations could contribute to the turn-around.

Again, don't get me wrong, I am absolutely all for encouraging student life and accommodation in Flint, but while such a fuss is made over students (myself included) huge sectors of the city could be waiting to live the same lifestyles.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I'm moving to Flint in the next few weeks, and I'd really like to live downtown. I'd be interested in your input about the best neighborhoods/landlords. Shoot me an email if you get a chance: ejost13 (at) gmail (dot) com.