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10 Crappy College Towns That Are Turning It Around


Colleges often seem to be located in beautiful small towns, but for some, it wasn't always that way. The colleges highlighted here were once part of run-down or uninteresting towns and cities, but they're working on turning it around. Whether they've successfully completed the transformation from boring to idyllic, or are currently working on their grand design, these college towns are turning it around.


1. Macon, GA: As faculty tired of commuting long distances from the suburbs in Macon to teach at Mercer University, a movement to revitalize neighborhoods around the Mercer campus began. Where dilapidated and dangerous buildings and crack houses once stood, there are now restored historic homes and buzzing shopping centers. This has improved safety on campus, as well as investment in Downtown Macon.

2. Glassboro, NJ: Home to Rowan University, Glassboro's downtown has been revitalized through a Town and Gown Alliance. Designed to turn downtown Glassboro into a college town, downtown was designed to attract college student spending power into the city center, while at the same time positively impacting enrollment in the college.

3. South Bend, Indiana: Notre Dame used to be closed off, with students forbidden to leave the grounds, and priest-patrolled sections of downtown ruled off-limits. But now, the school is pushing for a revitalization of South Bend, adding shops, and restaurants to bordering streets and neighborhoods, making the campus safer and more attractive while improving job opportunities and property values for homeowners in Notre Dame's neighborhood.

4. Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College's Poughkeepsie, NY is undergoing a series of projects aimed at improving the town, specifically the areas surrounding the school and downtown. Vacant buildings have been transformed into new residential and retail spaces, housing is greatly improved, and historic preservation has grown by leaps and bounds in the area.

5. Storrs, CT: For UConn, a beautiful college campus is no longer enough. The University of Connecticut set out to build its own college town, demolishing the former downtown of Storrs, CT and creating a modern New England college center known as Storrs Center, offering rental housing, office space, retail space, and a town square, as well as conservation preserves.

6. Ettrick, VA: Virginia State University representatives have been working with community leaders in Ettrick to improve Chesterfield Avenue and the area adjacent to VSU. So far, signage has improved, and the second phase of the project is underway, improving building fronts, landscaping, and more, offing students and community members an improved sense of pride in the neighborhood. VSU is in the process of purchasing defunct properties surrounding the campus with hopes of expansion, creating multi-use buildings, and turning downtown Ettrick into a commercial area for VSU students and staff.

7. Rochester, NY: In Rochester, NY, the University of Rochester has begun their College Town project. This project includes a YMCA branch, retail projects, and a transit center, with the potential for a hotel and conference center, all intended to improve a 16-acre area on Mt. Hope Avenue near the campus. Rochester's revitalization is aimed at enhancing the neighborhood and quality of life on campus and in the surrounding area.

8. Flint, MI: Flint has had it rough, losing GM's headquarters, experiencing a decline in the auto industry, and getting hit hard by the recession. However, the city has been working to improve itself through a College Town initiative, a joint effort between the city's five colleges. The group is using city bailout money to turn abandoned homes and buildings into a remodeled downtown, improving scenery and making Flint a better place for college students to spend their money and improve the local economy.

9. Arlington, TX: The University of Texas at Arlington has been working on a campus transformation for a number of years, and that transformation is now being extended beyond the campus and into the town of Arlington, Texas. The university is starting to move into the downtown area, creating redevelopments in the downtown district, making the area more lively, and a cool place for students to be.

10. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University is flanked by old and under-used structures, but new plans are underway to tear down those buildings and turn them into mixed use areas, creating housing, entertainment, and retail units for students and neighbors in the FSU area. Projections for FSU's College Town on Gaines Street have marked an economic output of over $31 million, and 144 permanent jobs for the area. The project offers a great way for the campus to link itself with the city, and improve Gaines Street's sense of place, and it is being supported fully by the Tallahassee community.

June 8th, 2011 written by Staff Writers

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