Undoing poor decisions made decades ago has been reinforced as a trend with the announcement that UConn will be moving its Greater Hartford branch, currently located in West Hartford, to downtown Hartford. It will be joining the UConn School of Business, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy, and Capital Community College. Additionally, the Temple Street Townhouses were designed and are used as off-campus student housing; this is promoted as a housing option for students attending the University of Hartford.
Having colleges in close proximity of each other fosters cooperation among the institution and avails students to more opportunities. For those attending the community college downtown, having four-year universities in walking distance makes the dream of transferring seem more achievable.
It is understandable that some would be upset about West Hartford losing this institution, but town leaders have been positive and supportive. With other universities rumored to be eying the West Hartford campus, it is not entirely a loss for the town.
But there has been negativity coming from some Connecticut residents about where the university is intending to move. The opposition has been predictable: safety, parking, and traffic.
Concerns about personal safety are generally unfounded, as any time with a police blotter will prove. Most instances of violent crime in downtown occur around the nightclubs at times when classes are not taking place. While some neighborhoods rarely see patrols, there is a presence of both police and BID security ambassadors in downtown. The addition of students to city streets increases safety.
Parking, contrary to popular belief, is plentiful. Some parking garages are mostly empty because of nearby employers that have somewhat recently moved their operations out of Hartford.
Students typically pay to park on college campuses, so the possibility of parking fees at the new location is not groundbreaking. With better public transportation options in downtown than around the West Hartford branch, parking fees could be just the thing to encourage commuters to make more responsible transportation choices. A location convenient to a public transportation hub opens up UConn to students who otherwise could not attend because of the lack of car ownership. Having more public transportation options also means sidestepping concerns about motor vehicle traffic.
Students taking public transit means, again, more foot traffic on the streets. Pedestrians contribute to the local economy, stopping at coffee shops, restaurants, and convenience stores. In this case, over 2000 students and faculty would potentially be contributing to Hartford’s economy.
That being said, UConn has made no announcements that would indicate that students would have to pay to park at a downtown campus. Worry over fees that may not exist is as pointless as concern over safety for those attending classes in a building that will no doubt have security like any other urban college campus.
With any change to a routine, there is a period of adjustment. Let us all give UConn students the benefit of the doubt by believing that they are flexible, capable, and mature enough to adapt to an urban campus located less than five miles from where they are now.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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