Today, many academic institutions are partnering with cities, consulting with neighborhoods, forming citizen advisory groups, and embracing mixed-use developments that blur the edges of campus rather than impose hard boundaries.
It's a case of enlightened self-interest. Corporations and department stores can leave cities with ease, but universities aren't portable. They realize that their fortunes are tied to their immediate environs and to cities as a whole. And they fear they'll lose the race for students and faculty if they can't provide safe, attractive settings in which to live and learn.
"Increasingly, students want it all," says Michael Beyard, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. "They want a top education, but also a top environment. This becomes even more important in a hyper-competitive market.''
This commentary comes from a recently published article in a planning publication.
How does it relate to Sarasota?
Well hold on to your hat. We are about to see an explosion of campus related activity here in Sarasota.
The Ringling School of Art and Design is in the midst of updating their Campus Master Plan as well as an ambitious building and land acquisition plan.
New College is just starting to update their Campus Master Plan. They intend to nearly double their student population and this will require more dorms and class rooms.
USF-Sarasota is in the midst of a building program - just across the border in Manatee County at the Crosley Estate site. USF is also starting to work on their own Campus Master Plan.
New College and USF shared a campus until recently. Now that each has its own campus they both need to have a Master Plan in order to compete for funding.
But there is more.
These schools, along with the city, county, Museum and the airport are close to hiring a consultant to start a process that promises to identify needed elements of an "Educational and Cultural Corridor". This would focus on the North Trail from Bowles Creek (Manatee County) to 10th St in Sarasota. The concept is to formulate a plan to revitalize the North Trail and connect to the cultural, educational and historic resources along this corridor. A renewal of the 1990's Gateway 2000 project that fizzled.
The schools are concerned about the North Trail image as well as the safety of their students and employees. New College also is looking for significant neighborhood input as they try to become more a part of the immediate neighborhood.
Charrettes for the New College Campus Master Plan start this month. The Educational and Cultural Corridor process could start later this fall. Hopefully lots of people will get involved and we will be taken for an enlightened ride.
We will post updates from time to time for those interested.