Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Better leveraging higher education institutions in cities and counties: Greensboro; Spokane; Mesa; Phoenix; Montgomery County, Maryland; Washington, DC

For more than one year, I've been meaning to write about Greensboro, North Carolina, and how one of the planks of their economic development and urban revitalization planning is to better leverage opportunities present within the myriad of higher education institutions in their community, ranging from two public universities, the University of North Carolina Greensboro and North Carolina Agriculture & Technical State University--an HBCU land grant college, a community college system, and six private schools.

The range of programs attracts students not just from North Carolina, but from across the US and many foreign countries, adding a level of cosmopolitanism and a research thrust that likely wouldn't be present otherwise.  The city still has a strong manufacturing sector and the colleges help to support that sector's continued relevance when in many communities manufacturing continues to diminish as a significant element of the local economy.

One example is how UNCG and NCA&T already share a science and research park, the Gateway University Science Park, anchored by the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, where the dean reports to both institutions.

One of Greensboro's inspirations has been how Spokane, Washington is creating a multi-institutional campus, called the University District, on a section of the waterfront no longer used by the maritime industry ("Campus evolution: WSU kicks Spokane development into high gear, Spokane Spokesman-Review), six institutions including Washington State University, which aims to create a medical school as part of their Spokane operation, are developing a mixed-function university campus integrating the normally distinctly separate schools and programs.

Note that Mesa, Arizona has done something similar as a revitalization initiative, focusing on attracting university operations to its city, although Arizona State University is based in Tempe, and there is multi-institutional graduate campus in Phoenix, where University of Arizona has various professional programs including a medical school ("University of Arizona expands footprint in downtown Phoenix," Arizona Daily Star), along with programs from ASU and Northern Arizona University.

Mesa's initiative hasn't been fully successful, likely because of the proximity of ASU  ("Mesa mayor hopes to attract more colleges to city" and "Do Mesa's branch colleges have what it takes to survive?," Arizona Republic).  But three of the five colleges originally recruited are successful..

Greensboro's universities move towards collaboration.  In an interview about Greensboro, Ed Kitchen, former city manager and now vice president of the Bryan Foundation--a local foundation that has invested heavily in a wide range of community improvement projects-- discussed how going forward higher education institutions especially when there are multiple institutions in a single community, need to rethink how they organize and deliver programs, with a much greater focus on collaboration and differentiation and sharing, and a de-emphasis on duplication.

Applying that idea to Greensboro, stakeholders figured their best opportunities were with nursing and business education.  Greensboro has a strong hospital group and nursing programs at many of the institutions.

Because of declining State appropriations, Greensboro's public universities are seeing the value of collaboration, because on their own it can be much more difficult to build new facilities and offer new programs.

Creating the Union Square Campus in Downtown Greensboro. That common interest has spurred the development of the Union Square Campus, a new urban mixed use higher education development on 7 acres (two to three city blocks) in the core of Greensboro.

According to the Triad Business Journal ("Impact of Union Square at South Elm in downtown Greensboro could reach $500M"), UNCG, NCA&T, Guilford Technical Community College, and the Cone Health system are partnering on a "105,000-square-foot collaborative health care training facility," which will cost about $40 million to construct.

The colleges will shift their nursing programs to that campus, and UNCG will launch a doctoral nursing program there.  Instead of competing for students and resources, the schools will collaborate and collectively offer programs, providing more options to students than any one of the schools could offer individually.

The Union Square Campus is a way to experiment with how to bring that about while simultaneously supporting the city's revitalization objectives.  From the article:
As Triad Business Journal reported last year, the Union Square at South Elm development is set to host nearly 1 million square feet of new construction, including: the second phase of the downtown university campus; a 93,000-square-foot mixed-use building with ground-floor retail; a 500-space and a 200-300 space parking deck; a 96-unit and a 60-unit apartment building; and an about 150-room hotel with 18,000 square feet of conference and seminar space.
Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery County Maryland.  What motivated me to write this piece was the publication of an article in the Washington Post, "Shady Grove: 1 campus, 9 colleges," about the multiple university campus in Upper Montgomery County, Maryland, The Universities at Shady Grovewhich includes undergraduate and graduate programs from various Maryland state universities.

(Separately, Johns Hopkins University has a campus of its own in Upper Montgomery County, and both are primary anchors of a multi-site science and technology research and business development initiative once called Science City but now termed the Great Seneca Science Corridor.)

From the article:
But Shady Grove is a program unlike any other, with nine state universities converging at the Rockville, Md., campus, part of an effort that began 16 years ago to reduce college costs, produce an educated workforce and encourage college completion among populations that traditionally struggle to get their ­degrees.

Public universities and colleges are grappling with how to serve a growing population of students with limited resources in the face of paltry state investment in higher education. ­Cooperative programs, such as the one at Shady Grove, draw on the strengths of regional colleges and respond to demands for workforce development.

“It’s a very innovative model,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “You have a public institution responding to market conditions in a way that expands access.”

Shady Grove offers a way for community college students to transfer into undergraduate programs at nine of the 12 schools in the University System of Maryland, including the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Bowie State, Towson and the state flagship in College Park.
The campus is a way for universities to tap into the potential student population in the county as well as the business and research community and the scientific laboratories of the federal government, in particular the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Science and Technology.

But like the Union Square Campus in Greensboro, the University District in Spokane, and the Downtown higher education campus in Phoenix it is another model of co-location and collaboration that more communities need to consider when looking at ways to better leverage the presence of higher education institutions within their local economy.

Washington DC universities have more opportunity for collaboration.  When I was talking with Mr. Kitchen, I stopped for a moment, listed the major universities in DC (American University, Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, Trinity Washington University, University of the District of Columbia) along with various other university programs active in the city, and made the point that there was plenty of opportunity for collaboration between the institutions, but for the most part, they each go their own way.

Since that conversation, both Howard and Catholic have done some downsizing, in the face of declining tuition revenue.

Recently, both Howard University and American University have sold some properties for redevelopment, and starting around 2004 Catholic University initiated a large commercial redevelopment on land they own that is south of Michigan Avenue, much of which is now open and has recentered the Brookland neighborhood around the Metro station and the new buildings there.

HU is considering selling its PBS station affiliate's wireless spectrum as a way to raise money, and has created a joint venture to run its hospital, to put it in a better place financially.  Georgetown and GWU have already done something similar with their hospitals, to reduce their financial exposure.

And GWU, partly as a positioning move has amongst the highest tuition in the US ("Stephen Trachtenberg Is Not Sorry: Students have more debt than ever before. But the university president who helped propel a tuition arms race says schools are just getting started," National Journal).

In terms of some collaboration, in the past I suggested that DC go in with Montgomery County on a joint community college, and that DC consider, comparable to how the State University of New York supports certain "state colleges" at Cornell and some other institutions, contracting with one of the city's universities to offer a liberal arts college rather than UDC.

Perhaps the city's universities could move to a more collaborative place, especially as financial considerations push some of the institutions to reorganize some of their functions.

Currently, the universities participate in the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area which among other functions, allows students to take courses at other schools in the group, and they lobby on policies impacting colleges in DC.  It functions similarly to the Five College Consortium in Amherst, Massachusetts, but they don't operate at the level of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation that links the academic side of Big Ten conference members, along with the University of Chicago.

Universities at Shady Grove as a model for East of the River advanced education initiatives/initiatives in under-served communities. One of my laments about the redesign and reconstruction of the Anacostia branch library is that it was a like for like replacement, when it could have been relocated to a more prominent location and more education-related functions added.

One thread of this idea is how the Tower Hamlets borough of London merged their library and continuing education programs into a combined program called "Idea Stores," and located them prominently within commercial districts and activity centers, from less well located sites ("When is a library not a library? When it's an 'idea store'," Guardian).

But the other would have been something like the Universities at Shady Grove, having a higher education building-campus as part of the public library, that could be shared by the city's community colleges and other higher education initiatives, even workforce training programs supported by the Department of Employment Services.

Note that since the opportunity has been lost for at least one generation to do this with the Anacostia library branch, it could be done as part of the revivification of the St. Elizabeths east campus, although it has similar issues in terms of not being part of the Anacostia business district proximate to the Metro station.

Similarly, such as facility could be set up as part of redevelopment on the Congress Heights side of the St. E's campus, where a Washington Wizards practice facility will be located ("Plan For Wizards And Mystics Facility Has Some In Southeast D.C. Playing Defense," WAMU/NPR).

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At 9:13 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I'm not sure there in an incentive structure for the local DC universities to work together.

And I am also not sure that the DC Govt has any real leverage there.

Shutting down UDC is essential. Complete waste. Having a community college option would be better for some DC residents. Has UDC produced any value?

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

good question. I would think it has. It's a university for first generation college students. OTOH, how much value, and like the SUNY example, could the same or more value be generated by doing it differently?

Don't know about the Antioch School of Law there. Or my idea of how DC should have taken over Corcoran Gallery, including the College of Art and made it part of UDC.

At the very least, DC could contract with HU for a bunch of programs. It would help HU financially, and probably provide stronger programs.

It's better to have one stronger institution than two weaker ones.

2. with the community college, I don't know. But I still think it would have been worth it, even if it took years longer to launch, to go in with Montgomery College or in a pinch PGCCC. The reason I think MC is a better option is that their two main campuses are better accessible by public transportation (Silver Spring, Rockville).

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UDC certainly has value and it functions as more of a community college here while the other local community colleges charge and arm and a leg for anyone from DC to attend- this is unfair and something needs to be done to make regional schools at least inside the beltway the same price so they do not discriminate against those folks from DC wishing better or alternate options. Absolutely KEEP UDC as it has many classes and programs that are valuable and relevant.

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About 12 years ago I was considering moving to DC from VA but one of the reasons I did not was the lack of affordable continuing-ed and graduate programs that would be feasible for a working adult.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Spokane U District as a smart city district:

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There's a story in the Washington Business Journal about an MOU between Metrorail and Montgomery County about joint development at the White Flint Metrorail station.

Typically, this means housing with a modicum of retail, although the White Flint site is right on Rockville Pike and prominently located.

But interestingly, the iconoclastic county executive Marc Elrich, says he wants colleges to locate there. The site of course is hardly large enough for such a function, and interestingly, as already mentioned in this post, there is the University System of Maryland campus (Universities at Shady Grove) just 7 miles north.

"Montgomery County and Metro are moving on a massive project at White Flint. But there’s still a long way to go"


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