Monday, May 24, 2004

All that glitters...

Sterling University, the newest student-oriented housing complex, is coming together on Drake Rd., north of Main. This complex is about 2 miles north and west of campus, and is set to open for the fall. Students should be dreading it. The latest development in sprawl housing, SU looks to be a slightly upscale version of the types of developments that have sprung up like mushrooms "around" WMU in the last 3 or 4 years. I use "around" in quotes because these developments are up to 3 miles away from campus and generally intensify west side traffic problems and the campus parking nightmare because they pretty much mandate auto ownership.

Let's look at the pluses and minuses of this project:

1. It is very near Hardings, Panera, and other W. Main retail establishments.
2. There is plenty of parking for residents.
3. It's in a pretty quiet area, adequately separated from most commercial developments.
4. It will have high speed internet and other community amenities.

1. Bad/narrow condition of Drake ensures a big traffic headache for getting to school.
2. The community amenities will probably be pretty crappy (as they generally are in such developments).
3. It's set up as a "rent your bedroom, share the community space, live in isolation" type of arrangement.

As a living experience, I'd wager Sterling will be adequate -- everyone gets their own bathroom, and the rooms are spacious. However, its relationship to the larger Kalamazoo (and Oshtemo Twp., where it is actually located) community is really crappy. There are scores of bedrooms being built at this site and the strip malls, bars and other problems part and parcel to far-flung developments won't be far behind. There are no sidewalks in this area (across street from red pin), pretty much precluding pedestrian access to everything on Main.

One of the problems is that Sterling University is a national corporation that focuses on university communities. They are based in Houston and since they are not attuned to the local communities in which they build, they do not provide the most sensitive plans for integrating their development into the community. This is evident in the Kalamazoo example, where any new bedrooms should be built EAST of campus and not WEST.

The problems of sprawl, parking, traffic, obesity, poor campus culture, and strain on city (and twp) infrastructure are only exacerbated by developments like Sterling.


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