April 2, 2005

Town/Gown Cooperation: Univ of Pennsylvania and West Philly

"A decade-long commitment to upgrade the distressed urban neighborhood surrounding the University of Pennsylvania in West Philadelphia has yielded big bonuses in private investment, affordable housing, reduced crime, and enhanced public educational opportunities, its former president told attendees at the APA National Planning Conference in San Francisco," according to the American Planning Association.

Judith Rodin, Penn's president from 1994 to 2004 and now president of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City, was the opening keynote speaker at the conference last month.

The university invested in the neighborhood by providing money for better services, street lights and sanitation; by working with private developers to build new housing; by buying and renovating neighborhood eyesores; by bringing new retail to the area; and more. The university also decided it had to end the "fortress-like" separation of campus from surrounding community. "The university decided that it needed to 'reduce the physical isolation' of the campus with the neighborhood, so that the borders of the campus became a 'public seam' rather than a 'barrier.' "

As a public college, Framingham State doesn't have the kind of endowment money that a school like Penn does. Still, it sure would be nice if college planners would think about how to integrate with the surrounding community and improve the pedestrian streetscape around its campus.

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