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Monday, June 05, 2006

Universities and Redevelopment

First, thanks for inviting me back.  My last PrawfsBlawg visit was interrupted by a stay in the pediatrics ward with my one-year-old.  (Dehydration -- I am bad at Pedialyte.)  I appreciate the second chance!

Now for substance:  Ilya Somin (Volokh Conspiracy) and Ben Barros (PropertyProf Blog) have posts about Columbia’s efforts to redevelop NYC’s Manhattanville neighborhood.  Ilya raises interesting questions about the project's public-use implications.  I share his skepticism about letting private institutions exercise eminent domain to reshape neighborhoods to better suit their needs.  But the dispute also raises questions of the age-old “town-gown” variety, which highlight a deep divide between the preferences and priorities of elite and non-elites in the U.S.

Many universities have – or would like to – redevelop surrounding areas.  Notre Dame, where I teach, is working closely with residents of the neighborhood immediately to the south on a redevelopment project.  ND would like to develop the area as a mixed-use “college town,” with houses, townhouses and small businesses.  The non-university-affiliated neighbors (who are mostly working class and African-American) are deeply skeptical.  They worry about gentrification, and, more importantly, an influx of students into the neighborhood.  I live in the neighborhood, and I think the plans have much to recommend them.  South Bend is a struggling Rust-Belt town without a college town area; all new development is occurring in surrounding suburbs, etc.  But, for some reason, many of our neighbors cannot be convinced that we need both economic vitality and better housing.    (They want the latter, not the former – despite hours of new-urbanist visioning sessions.)

These disputes highlight the different aesthetics, and, more importantly, different priorities among elites and “regular people.”  I would like to see ND remake my neighborhood into a new-urbanist enclave.  (The university is the largest landowner in the area, so it can probably do this without asking the neighbors’ permission.)  But, a previous generation of planners thought they knew what was best for working class neighborhoods too – and gave us high-rise public housing and urban renewal.  Now, we tell ourselves that we’ve absorbed the lessons of the past.  Are the objections of the townies irrational – or are they a commonsense warning to proceed with caution, not hubris?

Posted by ngarnett on June 5, 2006 at 03:05 PM in Property | Permalink


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» Town-Gown Conflicts over Property Use: from The Volokh Conspiracy
Notre Dame property law professor Nicole Garnett has an interesting post on the town-gown conflict over neighborhood redevelopment in her ho... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 5, 2006 9:28:49 PM

» But what are they actually wanting to do? from City Comforts, the blog
At The Volokh Conspiracy there is yet one more (and very welcome — there can never be too many!) post about land law, this one on Town-Gown Conflicts over Property Use at Notre Dame. I left a remark about the importance of presenting the facts. Does an... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 6, 2006 2:13:38 PM


But what is the ND plan? Please see my comments at Volokh.

Posted by: David Sucher | Jun 6, 2006 11:21:44 AM

This is a pretty fascinating post. I wrote somewhat extensively -- working from a personal experience -- about other possible ramifications (such as overly-aggressive policing) over on Volokh.

But it occasions another question. What legal structures should be in place to ensure that such development proceeds with some form of a fair, democratic process for the stakeholders involved? It seems this sort of a process would allow for proceeding with "caution".

Posted by: David Eads | Jun 6, 2006 2:51:25 AM

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