November/December 08
Issue 18


this issue...

Town & Gown

To Working With Your Community

What's New



Town & Gown

Town/Gown relations have changed in cycles throughout the history of higher education. While we are currently in a warming period with both institutions and communities concentrating on the mutual benefits — cultural, economic, lifestyle, community development — that accrue from cooperation, it has not always been so.

In this issue, Arthur reprises his session at SCUP this summer in Montreal, on current issues and opportunities in town/gown relations today. Campus planners pay close attention to the dynamics and potentials of these sensitive and critical relationships as planning has a powerful role in maintaining and improving these ties.

George Mathey

If you have reactions or ideas to share, please let us know what you think by e-mailing:


Transformative Initiatives —
Positive Approaches To Working With Your Community

One of the first recorded conflicts between a college and a community was in 1209 at Oxford College. Another was the three-day battle on St. Scholastica Day in 1355, also at Oxford. It started in a pub — and rolled out into the street.

No wonder that the campus was designed to separate the townsfolk from the students.

Today, more than ever, being a positive member of your community is more than self interest. To do so is not a gift, nor is it charity, but an important aspect of long-range comprehensive planning. Creating an environment where the campus and community are at peace with one another has an important influence on student and faculty attraction and retention.

Areas of community concern are varied, but they usually can be categorized as follows:

The quality and extent of an institution's community engagement depends upon the effectiveness of its presidential leadership. Early faculty and Board buy-in is essential to the success of any such undertaking as well.

Working with your community can be as simple as the College of St. Benedict's efforts to improve downtown St. Joseph or Macalester College's High Wind Fund. Started in 1956, the High Wind Fund now has an endowment of $13 million, and a mission "…to maintain and improve the beauty, serenity, and security of the area surrounding the campus." Projects include buying, renovating, and selling property in the immediate area of the College.

More complex efforts can be found at Trinity College's Learning Corridor, the University of Pennsylvania's West Philadelphia Initiative, and Clark University's University Park Partnership. In all three cases, the institutions, in partnership with a variety of city, state, and federal agencies have transformed their neighborhoods. And in each case, it was the president of the institution that led the effort.

The University of Pennsylvania's initiative was lead by President Judith Rodin. She created five strategies for the area: economic growth, business development, improved housing, a "clean and safe" environment, and quality of schools. The University helped to create the cutting-edge Penn Alexander School — a public pre-K through eighth grade school for 500 students. In addition, the University partnered with utility providers, unions; and block associations to light 1,200 neighborhood porches and build parks in University City, the University's neighborhood. Two programs were directly involved — UC Bright, which began as a collaboration between the University and PECO, Pennsylvania's largest utility; and UC Green, which supports greening in University City and other Philadelphia neighborhoods. UC Brite subsidized the installation of homeowner lighting and street lighting for over 150 blocks in the area, and UC Green provided trees, shrubs, and plantings.

The University initiative provided mortgage incentives to faculty and staff to buy and improve homes in the neighborhood and bought and renovated houses to return to the market. New businesses, shops and restaurants; a grocery store; and a movie theater were subsidized and a special-services district with extra security and garbage collection was created.

Saint Lawrence University's Canton Initiative has had equal impact, but on a different scale. The University has provided loans to retail operations within the city, has helped establish a coffee shop and restaurant, and has promoted the renovation of historic town buildings. The University has also assisted Habitat for Humanity and the Women's Health Center. In another interesting move that benefited both town and gown, the University exchanged the closing of a Canton street that bisected the campus for contributing to downtown parking improvements and funding for a city fire station, a Canton Child Care facility, and for construction of new housing units.There are several public-support organizations that have focused on campus and community issues over the years. Campus Compact focuses on community service, civic engagement, and service learning. The work of Campus Compact includes faculty, staff, and student training; research on effective programs and practices; advocacy and policy work on issues; and grants, funding, and awards.

The Town and Gown Association of Ontario is another example

Clemson University and the City of Clemson have proposed that a National Town Gown Association be created as a primary source of information for common issues between institutions and their communities.

Arthur Lidsky

What's New

We are excited to be involved in a range of interesting projects. Stateside, we are preparing new system space utilization and allocation guidelines for the 54 campuses of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission; a space needs assessment and program of new and renovated space for the University of Massachusetts Lowell's South Campus; and a comprehensive campus plan for Carroll College in Helena, Montana.
We also have several international projects: the program for the master plan at the University of Botswana; the academic and administrative facilities program for NYU's new campus in Abu Dhabi; and the facility program for the College of Business Administration and the College for Women at Kuwait University's new campus.


DLC+A New Projects

  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Carroll College

  • University of Botswana
  • NYU’s new campus in Abu Dhabi
  • College for Women at Kuwait University



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