The Rise of the New College Town

April 8, 2019

 

College towns aren’t just about universities, students and places to go out to eat and drink. Increasingly, college towns are seen as desirable locations for families, professionals and retirees. When paired with major institutions, such as a hospital or commercial center, a college town can increase its tax base by developing a focused center that pulls the vibrancy of college life together with the commercial potential of a bustling urban core.

 

City governments in college towns are eager to increase their tax base while offering vibrant, connected experiences for students, families, staff and residents alike. The results are a new era of small, vibrant urban centers anchored by colleges and universities that appeal to all ages. Connecting the world of learning with living and commerce, these New College Towns offer a 21st century take on the good life.

 

“…university communities… have a lot of advantages for older Americans who are seeking intellectual stimulation, cultural amenities and sports offerings without high urban price tags, not to mention a generally healthy economic base.”

College Towns Can Be Attractive Later in Life; New York Times, 2017

 

The opportunity for success in these locations comes from a harmonic convergence of interest—the college’s desire for a competitive advantage in recruiting students, staff retention, a town’s need for expanded tax base and land use, and the investor’s preference for safe and recession-resistant investment.

 

However, not all college towns are created equal. The key is understanding how real estate development can tie the town and the college together, along with existing key economic engines/ institutions, in a great master plan that helps leverage and propel growth. Land in these small cities is often undervalued, even though many are close to major urban centers. Elliott Sidewalk Communities appraises each development opportunity in an organic discovery of how town and gown can best come together to mutual advantage. We then assemble a mixed-use plan that creates the New College Town master plan that’s right for that location.

 

Offering a win-win solution, our large-scale vision makes us a partner to both college and town, often resulting in such special treatment as the city purchasing and holding land for ESC (thereby reducing investment cost), offering tax deferrals, assisting with planning and zoning, and fast-tracking reviews where necessary. That combined with low land costs make these stable, sensible investments, and boosts returns.

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