There’s no denying that the recently started construction on the retail and residential project on the 3200 block of Chestnut Street has been a hot issue on campus for the past few weeks.
People have been asking what’s going into those rapidly expanding pits in the ground. Of course, Drexel students have taken the arrival of construction equipment and interrupted traffic flow to MacAlister Hall, Creese Student Center, Mandel Theater and the Handschumacher Dining Center in stride (believe us, we’re quite used to the shifting traffic patterns around campus by this point).
We all know that Drexel is in the middle of a housing crisis with an urgent need for more beds on campus, but we also need these new housing complexes to be affordable to students, especially for those of us who have scholarships or other financial aid and need to stay in on-campus housing so that the monies can be applied to room and board.
By having American Campus Communities, the company that currently owns and manages University Crossings, manage and lease the residential facilities that are now being built, students are getting the short end of the stick. We’re going to be interested to see how the leases work out for students who chose to live in these new spaces.
ACC is a business, and businesses need to make money. Although Drexel already relies on third-party contractors for services like food and public safety, we believe that developing this complex as privately operated apartments rather than as a Drexel residence hall is not in the best interests of students or the University.
It seems odd to us that such prime real estate, just feet from our classrooms, is being handed over to private developers to build housing. Although many students are happy with their living arrangements in UCross, it is generally more expensive once additional expenses such as Internet, cable and electricity are added. This is a major consideration for students looking to cut costs.
Plenty of other questions are yet to be answered about the new facilities. The street-level retail space will be staffed by employees of ACC. Will the positions be opened to Drexel students looking to supplement their incomes with retail jobs? Again, with the space under the control of a contractor, it will be less likely that the University will be able to make those opportunities available to students.
With so much land on campus being turned over to private developers, our concern is that the administration is missing out on an opportunity to develop University-controlled housing without relying on a third party. Although we’re optimistic for the new developments, the fact that they are to be developed and staffed by a private company makes us worried.