The recession and town-gown planning for CN

The NY Times today ran a brief, not particularly incisive, story on increased town-gown friction because of the recession. "Slump Revives Town-Gown Divide Across US"  (registration required) "As endowments everywhere sink with the economy, town-gown relationships, often carefully nurtured during the boom years as colleges and universities sought to expand, are fraying."  

Actually the article mostly concerns efforts to increase institutions' voluntary payments to cities and towns in lieu of taxation, in the form of impact fees, etc. - rather than expansion.  However, the featured example is the relationship between Allston, MA, and Harvard, which, after long negotiations to reach difficult agreements, had razed parts of Allston in anticipation of major university expansion.  All development activity has now stopped because of the funding hit taken by the recession, and Allston is left with vacant lots and no "indirect" benefits of the project.

Chapel Hill and Orange County aren't in the same position, thankfully, as Allston, partly because historically UNC-CH has not trod quite as heavily on its community as Harvard has.    But it all still makes me wonder just how quickly and how far Carolina North will actually grow with no funding in sight; and what we are being asked to accommodate before ground is actually broken. 

Throughout the town-gown series of meetings on Carolina North - the meetings on traffic being the most recent manifestation - there's a weird back-and-forth telescoping of time.  In the same meeting, we can be talking about potential construction traffic for the Innovation Center in 2010 and a light-rail system for 2039.  Aside from the danger that this slip-sliding time-travel is obscuring what really needs to be addressed first, there's always that big purple elephant named "Funding" standing at the back of the meeting room.



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