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Thread: Traits of college towns/cities

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    Traits of college towns/cities

    What type of characteristics do you see in college towns? Planning regulations in places and things done by cities in cause of the colleges nearby.

    I first off usually see a Borders, Barnes N Nobles, or both in large college towns. I also usually see Peet's Coffee, Chipotle, and other hip places to eat or get a drink. Also in college towns you see more trendy stores. Trader Joes is a common market I see in college towns to cator to the professors and graduates of the university who stick around and others of the middle class that are concerned with what they eat. Whole Foods is becoming popular in college towns too, but is seen less because you need a higher amount of people who can afford to shop there.

    I did hear the City Council of Eugene, OR banned Whole Foods from coming by not letting them locate in downtown Eugene bcause they didn't want competition with their farmer's market.

    Another common trait of college towns I see is a push for sustainable downtowns and boo-ing of strip malls on the outskirts of a city.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Lots of apartments & townhomes and areas/neighborhoods that are clearly predominantly student or faculty; used bookstores; lots of ethnic restaurants and take-out places; an abundance of tanning salons and tattoo parlors; an abundance of social services; mass transit of some sort (usually a bus system); lots of bars and different types of bars (townie, bar/grill, sports bar, irish pub, honky-tonk, dance clubs, etc.); multiple sandwich shops; Buffalo Wild Wings; an old-school Pizza Hut; lots of parks, trails, and open space (including many softball fields, sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, tennis courts, and open space areas for pick-up sports); lots of hotels; a Wal-Mart supercenter (bonus points if there's a Target too); a varied housing stock; plenty of sidewalks; University or college-owned property throughout the town (often times universities will have outlying buildings in other parts of the town, aside from the main campus); Museums/Historical Sites; an airport; radio stations; a strong police presence (city, county, campus, state, etc.); and that's all I can think of for right now.

    As for what you mention about a boo-ing of strip centers on the outskirts...not so much here in the Midwest. It seems like both sprawl and downtown re-development in college towns are equally welcomed around here.

    I think we also had a similar thread to this in the Friday Afternoon Club, like "things you will find in college towns", but I'm too lazy to find it.
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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Hard to say. In the Bay Area Santa Cruz and Berkeley are progressively politicked towns with lots of independent establishments and a younger, more hippiesh vibe; the area around Stanford, however, is relatively dull in comparison. A town like Boone, NC is so much like SC or Berkeley it's ridiculous, so I see a pattern. I think that the type of stores that cater to the more fashionable, cultural and broke thrive, and are what define a lot of college areas. Open space, too, and of course cafes, all night establishments (we have a 24-hour donut shop that is some people's second room), bars and little bookstores with selection geared towards the intelligentsia.

    The towns around more frat and party oriented schools out in the cuts I'm sure are a little different.

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    Interesting. Alot of that I didn't know and some of that I thought about and can see in my nearby college town. I also see a trend with other college towns like Santa Cruz and Berkeley in other parts of the state such as Ann Harbor, MI.

    I think Palo Alto (Stanford) and UC Santa Barbara are less radical and have a mix of normal students and hippies. I think it's growing for the hippy side though.

    I think Cal Poly SLO would also be more similar to those two, but with even less radicals.

    I heard the city of San Luis Obispo did alot to reform itself with the college by getting the college to build more on-housing living and to cap the size of the college. Who knows if that's for better or worse.

    I also see trend with colleges leading in opening jobs for technology and research. Cal Poly SLO is being big on that as well as UCSB.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Another town similar to Berkeley and Santa Cruz is Arcata, home of California State University Humboldt. And you're right, SLO and Santa Barbara are certainly less radical, although they do still have a lot in common with other college areas.

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    There's a whole website devoted to college towns, but I can't find it right now. I'm sure you can Google it.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    IP has it pegged for around here, but he forgot the dive bars serving expensive beers.

    What the heck its Pete's Coffee? Must be a regional thing. Here we have Illy, Bear Claw and Caribou. Yes even metro Detroit has the dreaded *$!

    You need to have a store downtown selling upscale sandals. Though the used books and record stores are gone!

    Subaru and Toyota dealers. I know folks on the coast might be shocked but in the mid-west you don't see too many Toyotas, mostly Ford, Dodge, Honda, and Chevy. Hyundai is picking up share too, probably see more of those than Toyotas.
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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I was going to start a similar thread, about what makes a town a "college town". I don't always think the presence of a large college or university is enough. Consider Las Cruces, New Mexico, with New Mexico State University. 18,000 students, and a traditional college campus with quads, but no signature "college town" built environment or vibe to speak of. Downtown Las Cruces is dead, and University Avenue, which borders the campus, has a Southwestern suburban character despite previous city plans to create a more pedestrian-oriented environment.

    What about other communities that should be college towns, given the presence of a good-sized college or university relative to the host town's population, but with little or no college vibe whatsoever? A few more that come to mind:

    * College Station, Texas
    * Kalamazoo, Michigan
    * Alfred, New York
    * Valparaiso, Indiana
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    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    What about other communities that should be college towns, given the presence of a good-sized college or university relative to the host town's population, but with little or no college vibe whatsoever? A few more that come to mind:

    * College Station, Texas
    I never thought about it before, but you're absolutely right. Outside of the Texas A&M campus, College State feels like any other central Texas town with similar population. It could very well be Temple, Kerrville, or Seguin. Heck, even Waco has more of a college town vibe than CS.

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    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    What about other communities that should be college towns, given the presence of a good-sized college or university relative to the host town's population, but with little or no college vibe whatsoever?
    South Bend, IN

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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    I was going to start a similar thread, about what makes a town a "college town". I don't always think the presence of a large college or university is enough. Consider Las Cruces, New Mexico, with New Mexico State University. 18,000 students, and a traditional college campus with quads, but no signature "college town" built environment or vibe to speak of. Downtown Las Cruces is dead, and University Avenue, which borders the campus, has a Southwestern suburban character despite previous city plans to create a more pedestrian-oriented environment.

    What about other communities that should be college towns, given the presence of a good-sized college or university relative to the host town's population, but with little or no college vibe whatsoever? A few more that come to mind:

    * College Station, Texas
    * Kalamazoo, Michigan
    * Alfred, New York
    * Valparaiso, Indiana
    Yeah I've heard of that before. Chico is like that in California other than Woodstock's Pizza which is our hip and healthy pizza place. Chico has an old mall which sucked up the downtown. I looked into College Station TX and they don't even have a Trader Joes. I think climate and location plays into these factors.
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    IP has it pegged for around here, but he forgot the dive bars serving expensive beers.

    What the heck its Pete's Coffee? Must be a regional thing. Here we have Illy, Bear Claw and Caribou. Yes even metro Detroit has the dreaded *$!

    You need to have a store downtown selling upscale sandals. Though the used books and record stores are gone!

    Subaru and Toyota dealers. I know folks on the coast might be shocked but in the mid-west you don't see too many Toyotas, mostly Ford, Dodge, Honda, and Chevy. Hyundai is picking up share too, probably see more of those than Toyotas.
    *Gasp* No Toyotas or Subaru!? I love Toyota so much. They're a very good car brand. Very safe and save on gas. Peet's Coffee might be a West Coast thing, They are a chain that sells organic coffee. They are amazing! My friend always get this one coffee where the farmer gets more money out of it. I forget what you call it when your order that type of coffee.

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    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Kansas University in Lawrence KS has a most unique feel. Downtown is constantly busy. I would say it has the busiiest concintrated downtown in Kansas. There is a whole differnet feeling to Lawrence. Much Much more liberal than the rest of the state. Many more free spirits live there. Even ones that don't look like they could possibly be able to afford KU. Most other colleges in the state stand alone. Lawrence IS KU.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    What type of characteristics do you see in college towns? Planning regulations in places and things done by cities in cause of the colleges nearby.

    .
    I highly doubt code or guidelines can be written to force development to look X way or perform like Y college town.

    And a characteristic I don't see mentioned is the plethora of motivated, attractive young people.

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    I also see some college towns meeting what would be considered an almost "perfect city".

    The things I listed as perfect are:
    low crime
    low poverty
    affordible housing
    many jobs
    bike able
    live/shop/work downtown or a lifestyle center
    natural food markets
    rock concerts-music scene
    plays, symphonies-cultural scene
    not over populated
    mix of regional and local and national chains
    strong bus system
    less traffic to reduce smog

    Usually college towns r missing 2-3.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    *Gasp* No Toyotas or Subaru!? I love Toyota so much. They're a very good car brand. Very safe and save on gas.
    It has everything to do with who is making the cars. No Toyota Plants here but plenty of suppliers for Honda and Hyundai. Ann Arbor recently got a Toyota engineering facility though. That is a college town in the Detroit metroplex, so it might have a small change out there.

    After Toyota's quality issues, they are not going to make inroads here anytime soon. Not even Toyota's Pontiac Vibe sold well here. But strangely Mazda's Ford Mustang sells gangbusters!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    South Bend, IN
    Totally agree. I was there for the first time ever last year for a wedding and was surprised at how un-college towny (making up words ) it was. The campus is surrounded by just residential neighborhood and there is a smaller seminary school nearby, but absolutely no commercial shops/restaurants, etc. like you would expect.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    I highly doubt code or guidelines can be written to force development to look X way or perform like Y college town.
    Form-based codes are one way of creating a "college neighborhood." Overlays that require commercial buildings to be built to the sidewalk, limit ground-level commercial uses that generate little foot traffic (insurance agencies, lawyer's offices, etc), and permit higher density development are another.

    Regarding South Bend: the ratio of college students to the general population is fairly low. Still, one would expect to see a small college-y neighborhood near Notre Dame.

    Rochester, New York has an abundance of medium-sized colleges and universities, but no real college-y neighborhoods. Buffalo has University Heights by the UB South Campus, and the north end of Elmwood Village by Buffalo State College. In east suburban Cleveland, there's a a small, pedestrian-oriented college-oriented retail area in University Heights by John Carroll University, and the Coventry neighborhood in Cleveland Heights catering to the CWRU crowd.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    Yeah I've heard of that before. Chico is like that in California other than Woodstock's Pizza which is our hip and healthy pizza place. Chico has an old mall which sucked up the downtown.
    Your kidding me right? Have you been to Chico? Chico is quite the college town in the "college town sense". The campus sits in downtown, the downtown is very vibrant and is home to one of the most scenic streets in the nation "the Esplanade". Chico is very pedestrian oriented and plus, where else can you get a pint of Sierra Nevada for a $1?

    As for college towns not functioning like college towns, Merced, CA home to the new UC campus will probably end up there. The campus sits in the middle of nowhere right now, and i am sure the County will screw up the Campus Community Plan in some way shape or form.

    When i visited Easton, PA for a job interview, it had a great "college" town vibe thanks to to Layffette Colege. A lot of walkability in the town with a lot of trails and other stuff that was attractive to me when i applied there (not to mention NYC being so close).

    I live in a college town now. I live in the walkable Downtown Area and as a parent, i find the students annyoing when they are unruly and shouting outside my window on their drunk way home at 2am or this just means i am old now?
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    I also see some college towns meeting what would be considered an almost "perfect city".

    The things I listed as perfect are:
    low crime
    low poverty
    affordible housing
    many jobs
    bike able
    live/shop/work downtown or a lifestyle center
    natural food markets
    rock concerts-music scene
    plays, symphonies-cultural scene
    not over populated
    mix of regional and local and national chains
    strong bus system
    less traffic to reduce smog

    Usually college towns r missing 2-3.
    Santa Cruz doesn't meet the standards of the ones in bold, but given your disclaimer you seem to have got something.

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    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    Santa Cruz doesn't meet the standards of the ones in bold, but given your disclaimer you seem to have got something.
    I'd say they are okay in the job sector. I'd say less right now cause of the economy. They have Watsonville and other places nearby for jobs. Which can't be said for San Luis Obispo. Most of the jobs in SLO county are in SLO and even then there aren't enough. Are homeless rate has exceeded that of Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara at least has Goleta for another economic engine with the technology industry. SLO is building a Target shopping center and are trying to get more small firms to locate in the city. All though I think possibly allowing Cal Poly to expand would be a good idea, but then again maybe not since were now just starting to get the party crowd under control by cutting back on WOW, late night dorm meetings, and banning of Mardi Gras and other events and more police enforcement with fraternities.

    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Your kidding me right? Have you been to Chico? Chico is quite the college town in the "college town sense". The campus sits in downtown, the downtown is very vibrant and is home to one of the most scenic streets in the nation "the Esplanade". Chico is very pedestrian oriented and plus, where else can you get a pint of Sierra Nevada for a $1?

    As for college towns not functioning like college towns, Merced, CA home to the new UC campus will probably end up there. The campus sits in the middle of nowhere right now, and i am sure the County will screw up the Campus Community Plan in some way shape or form.

    When i visited Easton, PA for a job interview, it had a great "college" town vibe thanks to to Layffette Colege. A lot of walkability in the town with a lot of trails and other stuff that was attractive to me when i applied there (not to mention NYC being so close).

    I live in a college town now. I live in the walkable Downtown Area and as a parent, i find the students annyoing when they are unruly and shouting outside my window on their drunk way home at 2am or this just means i am old now?
    Nope, haven't been to Chico so I guess I can be wrong. Merced and other small college schools don't have a college town feel because there aren't many students living in the area. Any school under 10,000 students loses it's college feel. You have alot of students from the area and then a few out of the area.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    I'd say they [Santa Cruz] are okay in the job sector. I'd say less right now cause of the economy. They have Watsonville and other places nearby for jobs.
    I guess...I can say pretty confidently that UCSC students are NOT going to be working in the fields in Watsonville, which is the nature of the economic engine there, but there is Silicon Valley (although students commuting there during school is a stretch as well). I'm job hunting right now and am having a hard time, but maybe that's just me.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Form-based codes are one way of creating a "college neighborhood." Overlays that require commercial buildings to be built to the sidewalk, limit ground-level commercial uses that generate little foot traffic (insurance agencies, lawyer's offices, etc), and permit higher density development are another.
    Yes yes yes. FBC FBC FBC.

    I don't think I've ever been to a cool college town built to a FBC. Nor a cool town in Europe.

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    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    I guess...I can say pretty confidently that UCSC students are NOT going to be working in the fields in Watsonville, which is the nature of the economic engine there, but there is Silicon Valley (although students commuting there during school is a stretch as well). I'm job hunting right now and am having a hard time, but maybe that's just me.
    What about the retail stores? K-Mart, Target, etc... There's a mall in Capitola too.

    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    It has everything to do with who is making the cars. No Toyota Plants here but plenty of suppliers for Honda and Hyundai. Ann Arbor recently got a Toyota engineering facility though. That is a college town in the Detroit metroplex, so it might have a small change out there.

    After Toyota's quality issues, they are not going to make inroads here anytime soon. Not even Toyota's Pontiac Vibe sold well here. But strangely Mazda's Ford Mustang sells gangbusters!
    We have all the main car dealerships in San Luis Obispo-Toyota and Scion/Ford, Mercury, and Mustang/Hyundai/Subaru/Chevron/Chevrolet/Buick and GMC/Mazda. I might be missing some. Toyota can be find in even in some of the smallest communities in California including Ridgecrest which has about 10,000 population.
    Last edited by urban19; 17 Sep 2010 at 8:32 PM.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Yes yes yes. FBC FBC FBC.

    I don't think I've ever been to a cool college town built to a FBC. Nor a cool town in Europe.
    I'm green. So a Form Based Code is the physical constraining of building types and block layouts? I may agree with you, but what are your issues with FBCs ColoGI? Wikipedia cites a US example in the Bay Area (Petaluma) so I might make a day trip and go check that out. (Personally I prefer function over form 95% of the time, so an FBC sounds iffy)

    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    What about the retail stores? K-Mart, Target, etc... There's a mall in Capitola too.
    Your criteria was many jobs, and Santa Cruz doesn't have that given the overabundance of college-age workers in a smaller town (55,000 plus Live Oak and Capitola). It has jobs, but not, I would say, many.

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    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    I'm green. So a Form Based Code is the physical constraining of building types and block layouts? I may agree with you, but what are your issues with FBCs ColoGI? Wikipedia cites a US example in the Bay Area (Petaluma) so I might make a day trip and go check that out. (Personally I prefer function over form 95% of the time, so an FBC sounds iffy)



    Your criteria was many jobs, and Santa Cruz doesn't have that given the overabundance of college-age workers in a smaller town (55,000 plus Live Oak and Capitola). It has jobs, but not, I would say, many.
    Well I guess I should have said more accessibility to jobs than most areas.

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