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.

Friday, November 19, 2021

The other George Miller idea: creating multi-college innovation centers in (cities) Philadelphia | Creating public library-college education centers as revitalization initiatives

This is a follow up entry to "HBCUs and the city: Relocating Cheyney University to Philadelphia?."


Another idea expressed by George Miller in his Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece ("Move Cheyney University to the Navy Yard"), alongside the concept of moving Cheyney University, the nation's first HBCU, is the creation of what he calls an "intercollegiate innovation campus for other Pennsylvania schools and colleges" as an element of repositioning the city even further as a "college hub."

From the article:

The city took control of the 1,200-acre property after the Navy closed operations in 1996. There were ambitious master plans created in 2004 and 2013, but both included loads of office space. Only about one-third of the existing real estate is occupied or in development. Given the work-from-home movement created by the coronavirus pandemic, there is likely much less interest in building new office space. ...

The Navy Yard could be an intercollegiate innovation campus where STEM research is done by students from Penn, Drexel, Temple, La Salle, and other city schools, as well as by students from across the country and around the world. Penn State established a campus there, where it offers graduate business classes and corporate training. 

How about using that campus to attract students from other Pennsylvania schools for one or two semesters? They could do internships in the city, participate in research projects, and maybe take classes at the new Cheyney Navy Yard campus? 

Having such an opportunity – think of it as similar to a semester abroad, a Philadelphia semester – could be a selling point for colleges like Millersville, Lehigh, Lafayette, Franklin & Marshall, and maybe even Penn State’s main campus, even if only for summer programs.

I have had a similar idea for awhile, although my idea is somewhat different, creating an education hub focused on underserved communities with a lower level of higher educational attainment, making over public libraries into broader community educational anchors through expansion into larger facilities with spaces for colleges to offer classes, delivery of workforce education, etc.

In part, this is modeled on the Idea Store concept from Tower Hamlets borough, London.

There, public libraries have been combined with workforce education delivery, and relocated to highly visible and architecturally startling buildings in popular commercial districts ("Idea Stores Ten Years On: The next generation," Designing Libraries, “When is the Library not a library? When it is the Idea Store,” 2004, Guardian).

Other examples are where multiple colleges offer programs from the same location.  Models include how the University System of Maryland supports the "Universities at Shady Grove" initiative where 80 academic degree programs are offered by nine different Maryland state universities in a location in Montgomery County--the state's wealthiest county--which has no four year colleges based there ("Nine universities on one small campus? It’s real. It’s here. And it could be higher ed’s future," Washington Post).

And how the Community College of Denver , Metropolitan State University, and the University of Colorado Denver share a campus ("Chancellor Michelle Marks leads CU Denver to 'equity-serving' future," Denver Business Journal).  Or how Indiana and Purdue Universities have a joint campus in Indianapolis.  

Although the closest comparable example is the creation of the Union Square urban higher education campus in Greensboro, North Carolina ("A center for nursing: Union Square Campus opens," Greensboro News & Record), which is starting out focusing on nursing, but could expand to include inter-collegiate collaboration in other disciplines.  The nursing venture involves three colleges and a major health system.

There are probably other examples.

And I wouldn't limit access to only public universities.  Any university wanting to participate should be welcome to do so.

But my idea was to do this from the standpoint of equity planning and revitalizing communities, as a way to expand access to educational opportunities as an element of social urbanism and creating stronger networks of social infrastructure and civic assets.

So in how my writings on equity planning were originally focused on the East of the River community in DC, in particular Anacostia, and the Takoma Crossroads Langley Park area of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Maryland--ironically located about two miles from the University of Maryland College Park--those are the places I was thinking where such facilities could be created.

Another example contributing to this idea is how in Roxbury, Boston, the city built the Bolling Municipal Building, which opened in 2015, incorporating historic storefronts, as well as new construction.  While the building is mostly office space for the school system, it includes ground floor retail and meeting facilities throughout the building that are open for community use, as well as the Roxbury Innovation Center, which aims to stoke local economic development. 

Meeting facilities at the Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury can also be used for community events.

The Bolling Building was an opportunity to do much more than it does programmatically, but it shows how it's possible to leverage a municipal facility for broader and transformational programming ("In Dudley Square, battered storefronts undermine the progress," Boston Globe).   

Another example of co-location is how the San Diego Central Library is also home to a charter school.

Or various innovative mixed use public library initiatives beyond the Idea Store, such as the Pounds Centre in Hampshire County, UK or the Drumbrae Library in Scotland ("Neighborhood libraries as nodes in a neighborhood and city-wide network of cultural assets") or my concept for a mixed use central library ("Civic assets and mixed use: Central library edition") and how the Salt Lake City central library provides "mixed use" learning and educational functions in its building, including an NPR radio station, a writing center sponsored by the local community college system, and an actively programmed auditorium.

Not just teaching, but an opportunity for colleges to do place-based research, service, and outreach.  This facility should be a two-way thing for the participating colleges.  Not just an opportunity for colleges to teach classes to area residents, but also for outreach, research, and service programs delivered by the universities, comparable to how Kent State University has its architecture and planning studio programs based in a center in Cleveland, or the University of Michigan's LSA College Detroit Initiative, which has helped to spur greater engagement of the university as a whole.  (Now other Michigan universities have created similar initiatives, but they don't work together out of a common facility.)

The George Miller concept is somewhat different aiming to stoke the city's economic competitiveness by leveraging higher education.  From the article, Miller sees this concept as an economic driver for the city and region, attracting new businesses, sparking business startups, etc., more along the lines of this blog entry, "Better leveraging higher education institutions in cities and counties: Greensboro; Spokane; Mesa; Phoenix; Montgomery County, Maryland; Washington, DC"   (2016).

That could happen through the creation of an "intercollegiate college hub" at the Navy Yard, but like my point about how just plopping Cheyney University in Philadelphia might not make a difference ("HBCUs and the city: Relocating Cheyney University to Philadelphia?"), planning for that kind of spinoff economic development takes concerted effort and steps ("Naturally occurring innovation districts | Technology districts and the tech sector" and "How the closure of a Pfizer research center in Ann Arbor, Michigan led to the development of a biotech sector there").

It's not a matter of "build it and they will come."

For more on signature university initiatives and their effect on community economic development and/or first generation college student success see these past blog entries:

-- "Freeman Hrabowski and 'urban universities," 2021
-- "Universities as elements of urban/downtown revitalization: the Portland State story and more," 2014
-- "President of Washington State University dies: fostered development of the "University District" adjacent to Downtown Spokane," 2015

and articles about the Maryland Institute College of Arts ("MICA president Fred Lazarus to retire at end of 2014 academic year," Baltimore Sun), the Arabianranta district of Helsinki, anchored by the design-focused Aalto University (""Developing Creative Quarters in Cities: Policy lessons from “Art and Design City Arabianranta, Helsinki," Urban Research and Practice, 2013), and the outsize role of Professor Robert Lang at the University of Nevada Las Vegas ("Robert Lang, who helped reshape Southern Nevada’s economy, dies at 62," Las Vegas Review-Journal).

And Philadelphia could start by figuring out why their existing universities and colleges aren't having the kind of economic impact that they desire, anchored by private schools like University of Pennsylvania (although yesterday's Washington Post has an interesting article about an agriculture business venture developed by a Penn graduate, "Fighting food waste one apple at a time") and Drexel University, state schools like Temple University, and what I have always thought of as particularly interesting private universities like the University of the Sciences and the University of the Arts, Moore College of Art and Design ("Should community culture master plans include elements on higher education arts programs?") etc.

New York City has incredible higher education institutions (Columbia, NYU and CUNY for starters) and still, former Mayor Bloomberg didn't think that was enough, and created an initiative to develop a new technology focused university on Roosevelt Island--the winner of the competition was a joint venture of Cornell University and Technion Institute of Israel ("Bloomberg Chooses Cornell to Make New York a Silicon Valley 2.0," The Atlantic).  

Interestingly too, Philadelphia was one of the earliest creators of a more focused effort to leverage the existence of its universities and colleges ("PUTTING THEIR TOWNS ON THE MAP: Baltimore and Philadelphia institutional and city planners are working together to create great college towns," NACUBO Business Officer Magazine 2005), with the aim of yes, retaining graduates and fostering their economic contributions to the city and regional economy, but it seems as if that effort has fallen by the wayside.

The University of Pennsylvania was also an early leader in investing in the community around its campus (in part as a safety measure).

Penn had one time considered moving to the suburbs, before deciding to recommit to the city.  

Former university president Judith Rodin has a book on the subject, The University and Urban Revival.

Separately, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University, Amtrak, and local developers fund the University City Business Improvement District.

Conclusion.  So it's not like there isn't a lot going on with the city's universities as it is.  The question is how can it be better leveraged, for students, for the city, for the state, and that's what Professor Miller does in his interesting op-ed.

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At 10:32 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In the piece about the University of Colorado Denver chancellor

"Chancellor Michelle Marks leads CU Denver to 'equity-serving' future"

She discusses how she aims to make UCD the anchor of an "innovation district" there.

From the article:

One of the 2030 Strategic Plan's goals is to become an anchor institution for an open innovation district. What would this look like and what kind of partnerships would you be seeking to form? As the only public research institution in downtown Denver, I see us as the anchor institution for a vibrant, open-access hub of intellectual and creative vigor that leverages CU Denver’s laboratories, research faculty and diverse student body (the workforce of the future), along with our proximity to downtown Denver and its entrepreneurial ecosystem, Larimer Square, arts and cultural amenities, and local and state government.

The power of these districts is that they allow anchor institutions (usually a research university like ours) and companies to connect through startups, business incubators and accelerators. They create a contemporary and energized environment that blends state-of-the-art academic and lab spaces, neighborhood convening spaces, and mixed-use development — while creating the diverse workforce pipeline of the future.

Ultimately, the goal of the innovation district is to catalyze economic growth, spark new companies, commercialize research, cultivate the workforce of the future and drive social impact.

There are only 100 or so innovation districts in the world. According to the Brookings Institution, these districts are, by definition, physically compact areas that are transit accessible, technically wired, and offer mixed-use housing office and retail. The combination of our university assets and our location certainly fit this bill.

We’re actively seeking a variety of partnerships to accelerate and deepen our work toward this goal: with businesses, research institutions, investors and local governments.

While she mentions the Brookings Institution work, I like European academic work on "creative quarters" better.

At 3:32 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"

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In terms of the public library/college center idea, it can also be family learning center type stuff.

Goodfellows: Literacy Pittsburgh helps educate families and alleviate struggles.

And vocational education.

"Wrongly Convicted Of Murder, Juan Rivera Uses Settlement Money To Open Barber College With His Former Prison Guard In Rogers Park"

At 6:29 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Article about two going to college development programs in Washington state. Seattle Promise targeting high schoolers, and a community college's joint college credit program made available to students in all the school districts in its service area.

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In Massachusetts, local/regional votech high schools have a "Nighthawk" program to teach adults trades. It's a state scale program, which subsidizes it so that adults don't have to pay for the training.

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The Possible Zone, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that helps youth develop entrepreneurial skills, is opening a second “innovation center” in Jamaica Plain’s Jackson Square at 31 Heath St.

The 36,000 square feet innovation center, set to open its doors to staff in January, will provide a space for advanced technology, afterschool programming, and cross-collaboration between students, entrepreneurs, and members of Boston’s flourishing industries.

Its leaders hope the center’s offerings will help close Boston’s widening opportunity gap, which is still largely determined by race, class, and residence. ...

Participants will undergo three years of programming, in which they’ll explore potential careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics, collaborate with local entrepreneurs, and learn to build and pitch a business venture, as well as obtain funding for it. If successful, students could walk away with the beginnings of a new business or invention.

The sparkling new, five-floor innovation center includes design studios, a “makerspace” with equipment like 3D printers, laser cutters, and scanners for use on entrepreneurial projects. It also features a student lounge for socializing, relaxing, and advising services and office space for businesses that students could use for networking and possibly completing internships.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

his article says that Temple University's black enrollment has significantly dropped, even as the university grew signficantly.

This response by the diversity officer at the journalism school at Temple says it's more than numbers, that you need supportive programs, etc.

"Simply admitting more Black students won’t fix Temple’s diversity problems"

But making diversity happen over time is more than a one-time enrollment transaction. The worst thing we can do is try to boost enrollment without providing our students with the tools to stay, succeed, graduate, and make their impact on the world. In addition to focusing on who’s coming in the door, we have to focus on who is flying out of our nest, and how, as a truer measure of what it means to be “Temple Made.” For me, there were few persons of color (faculty or administrators) whom I could turn to when I was in college as a young undergrad. Now, from my perch inside academia’s walls, I and others at Temple actively seek out students whom we can nurture because we’ve been where they are and can steady them where we’ve stumbled. ...

Finally, it would be arrogant (and inaccurate) on our part to think that any one institution has the solutions. Enrollment, retention, and graduation are all part of a complex continuum that requires partnerships with K-12 schools, community leaders, and elected officials. It requires adequately funded and innovative programs that wrap our students with the social services to navigate the demands of pursuing a degree at TU.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Just came across this Penn dissertation:

"Anchoring Communities: The Impact of University Interventions on Neighborhood Revitalization"

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

An interesting interview with John Fry, the president of Drexel University. He worked on urban initiatives for University of Pennsylvania, then went to Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as president for 10 years, then became president of Drexel in 2010.

President Fry is a model of how to focus universities on urban issues in the places where they are located.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Drexel’s John Fry talks about nurturing biotech, building University City, and why the school wants to mint more engineers.

Older article

"College President as urban planner"

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

University space built in central San Diego, when UCSD is based in La Jolla,, about 20 minutes away.

"UC San Diego @ Park & Market - San Diego’s Newest & Dynamic Downtown Center - SDTA Connect Blog"

This is a fascinating article about the growth of UCSD, in many respects. Not enough housing, adding housing, medical center, student growth, leveraging the light rail line to expand, etc.


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