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Old 11-20-2014, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Pittsburgh is a city which is undergoing notable gentrification in many of the core urban neighborhoods, but there is one neighborhood which is mostly notable for how little it's changed - residential speaking, over the last several years - Oakland - right next door to the University of Pittsburgh.

Oakland has a relatively short (by Pittsburgh standards) but storied history. It was still largely undeveloped in 1890, with only small knots of development along the major thoroughfares. But there was a concerted push by Pittsburgh leaders to develop Oakland into a new "Civic Center" in the period between 1895 and 1910. This resulted in the main Carnegie Library, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. More fortuitously, in 1905 Andrew Carnegie also founded Carnegie Technical Institute, which was one of two institutions which combined to become the modern Carnegie Mellon University. And the University of Pittsburgh in 1909 chose to relocate out of Downtown and into Oakland.

Oakland was historically a mixed neighborhood. The southern and central portions had a diverse housing stock with everything from dense rowhouses to apartment houses (rare in Pittsburgh) to semi-detached townhouses. Northern Oakland was wealthier, with large detached single-family dwellings.

Once the mass expansion of universities began in the 1960s, the character of the neighborhood began to change. Larger single-family houses were subdivided to become rental housing, with the original residents moving to more suburban locales. Smaller houses were not subdivided but tended to become rentals anyway. North Oakland was redeveloped so that it became mainly a highrise-based neighborhood, and continued to attract a mixture of undergrads, graduate students, and older retirees attracted to condo living. A portion of it - Schenley Farms - remained protected by zoning and is among the most expensive and exclusive neighborhoods in the city. And South Oakland fell into being a student slum, notorious for absentee landlords charging high rent for apartments which often literally had structural issues.

The revitalization of much of the rest of the city has in some ways been to Oakland's detriment. Shadyside became the preferred place for CMU students (along with Pitt graduate students) to rent, and began developing its own identity which went through several incarnations (and is now full-on yuppie). And even undergraduates, as housing prices climbed in Oakland, looked further afield for decent apartments at reasonable rents, pouring into Friendship, Bloomfield, Highland Park, Lawrenceville, Squirrel Hill, and wherever else had a direct bus route into Oakland. Where in past decades it was the center of socialization for 20somethings, clubs and bars catering to the out-of-college crowd relocated to numerous other, now "hip" neighborhoods. The core of people left behind in the neighborhood were those undergraduates who would pay top dollar to live in a sty - often because of the "party rep" of the neighborhood itself. The transformation is far from over - Pitt enrollment continues to climb, and are still elderly homeowners scattered in the neighborhood (indeed, on many blocks, virtually everyone is 18-25 or over 60) who are steadily being pushed out. When families try to relocate within the neighborhood, they are often harassed by students.

All of this is odd, because Oakland should be the premier urban neighborhood in the city. The housing stock, although now tarnished, was originally among the best. It's one of the most walkable urban neighborhoods. Between the three colleges and several hospitals located in Oakland, 30,000 people work there. And the neighborhood, next to downtown, is the primary transit nexus of the city - there is nowhere it's easier to not have a car. It should be a neighborhood for everyone, but it's just a neighborhood for people who like to puke in the street and set couches on fire.

There are a few signs of change in the works. A master plan has called for the densification of some corridors with new apartments, in an attempt to stave off further student encroachment in the far fringes of the neighborhood. One of these projects has gone in for approval, and another is in planning. These will be the first new apartment projects in Oakland since the 1970s, so it is a good start.

But I am still wondering, nationwide, how many neighborhoods get stuck in this rut. No matter what they start in, are urban student slums basically doomed to always be such? Are the rents that students can pay simply so much higher than the other possible utilization of a neighborhood that transformation into a "neighborhood for everyone" is really impossible?
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Old 11-20-2014, 02:33 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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From my experience with college towns, I'm suspicious how much of a problem it is, and how much of it is college town residents viewing undergraduates as nusiances. I liked the "student slum" area as an undergraduate, it was fun. But being nearly all college students makes less desireable to older people and many older people don't find being immediately adjacent to the university worth the price premium.

The Mayor of Ithaca lives in collegetown, more or less a "student ghetto"

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick: Everything you need to know in 9 questions - The Ithaca VoiceThe Ithaca Voice

Again, a high support of densification and relaxing / eliminating off street parking requirements to encourage student housing not to spread too far out.
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Old 11-20-2014, 09:01 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Waterloo has a "student ghetto" too, I think it must be 95%+ students, located between its two universities which have a total of about 45,000 students (also a community college close by). Waterloo used to be a very suburban city with a very suburban mindset. The downtown was centred around a small suburban style mall. The university campuses were surrounded by a large park, vacant university land, suburban style office and industrial parks, and suburban style housing with typical single use low density auto oriented zoning.

Due to a shortage of on-campus housing, the neighbourhood near the universities became student dominated (student ghetto). These mostly consisted of circa 1950 bungalows and circa 1960 ranches and split levels with a few townhouses and 1970s/1980s duplexes and triplexes. A lot of the student homes were fairly crowded, had absentee landlords and were getting a bit run-down. With 5+ bedrooms per house and about $500 in rent per bedroom, families were being pushed out. When I was a student there I never lived in the main student area, but mostly in areas that were more 30-40% students, and I would say partying wasn't really an issue there.

There have been some big parties in the student dominated area. Ezra street is in the student dominated (probably 95%+) area, actually I think Ezra is 100% students, mostly from Wilfrid Laurier University which is the more party oriented one (WLU is mostly arts and business programs, Waterloo University is more engineering, math and science and some arts). In 1995 there was a riot that caused some injuries on Ezra street during an end of term street party. 2010/2011 didn't have much street parties on Ezra although the summer weather we got on St Patrick's day 2012 lead to a huge block party there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3fw__btYxM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqE3yhov2YU

And another in less favourable weather for St Paddy's 2013

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm_PqvFkbxY

And again in even worse weather in 2014 (even though there was also a tent set up nearby for partying)
In Waterloo, cold weather doesn't stop the St. Paddy's party | CTV Kitchener News

I didn't go to those although I am somewhere on this video of the 2010 men's hockey gold celebrations.
[vimeo]9872826[/vimeo]
Canada's Hockey Gold Celebration in Waterloo, Ontario on Vimeo

Anyways...

More recently changes have been made to the zoning of the "student ghetto" to allow intensification, so about 10,000 bedrooms worth of housing have been built in the last 5 years, with another 9,000 under construction and planned, in an area of about 0.4 square miles and used to have only about 700 homes. At first this was mainly limited to arterials and residential only, but fortunately they've recently decided to allow ground floor retail (which is now getting built), and the city is now allowing intensification on side street too. Some areas allow high-rises, other areas are capped at 4 storeys.

Initially it was mostly 4-5 bedroom apartments, since parking requirements were 1 per unit, but now that it's 0.2 per bedroom, there's more 1-2 bedroom units being built as well, which is good since it means more of a variety of unit sizes and potentially a variety of tenants as a result. Right now developments are still mostly geared towards student although there are now some geared more towards young adults closer to downtown too. I feel like the developments are getting nicer too with increased competition on the supply side, and also more investment from overseas.
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Old 11-20-2014, 09:04 PM
 
Location: southern california
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Lots of people & places we feel need fixing don't get asked if they agree
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Old 11-24-2014, 08:43 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
From my experience with college towns, I'm suspicious how much of a problem it is, and how much of it is college town residents viewing undergraduates as nuisances. I liked the "student slum" area as an undergraduate, it was fun. But being nearly all college students makes less desirable to older people and many older people don't find being immediately adjacent to the university worth the price premium.
IMHO, not all college towns are created equal. Obviously I was at a different point in my life at the time, but when I was in school in Western Mass I don't remember Amherst or Northampton being considered undesirable areas to live by locals overall (although everyone liked it better when students weren't around. Similarly, when I lived in New Haven the student-dominated neighborhoods were mostly the nice parts of town. Visiting places like Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill, Berkeley, and Bloomington (IN) all seemed to be desirable small cities as well.

The only place I've seen, nationwide, which seems very similar to Oakland is parts of Boston, particularly Allston and Fenway-Kenmore. I wonder if there's some relationship, where colleges make smaller cities more attractive places to live, but in larger cities (where there are densities large enough for non-student neighborhoods to have walkable amenities) they start becoming less desired by others? University City in Philadelphia seems like it's becoming a hot area for everyone though.

Regardless, to be clear, I wasn't calling for gentrifying the students out. There's plenty of land available in Oakland for more intensive use for everyone. You could have high density apartment living and preserve a lot of the older single family dwellings. But the current system, where most of the land is locked up by absentee landlords who allow their buildings to fall apart, isn't helping anyone - even the students. Hell, you have urban blight - complete with demolished rowhouses - only 15 minutes from campus.
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Old 11-24-2014, 10:37 AM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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But does anyone who isn't a student really want to live in the student neighborhood?

In the late 70s, there were still some "real" people living in the Ghetto at the University of Dayton. The Ghetto, mostly three-bedroom frame four-squares and doubles built just after the turn of the 20th Century for workers at NCR, now is almost wholly owned by UD, which has replaced the worst of the houses (nothing like falling through the floor to the basement during a party!); they are admittedly safer - the house I lived in never could have handled the electrical load of six computers, six smartphones, etc.

As far as I know, there was never any question of replacing the worst of the houses with denser housing - the last time that happened, in the late 70s, there was quite a student outcry over replacing homes with character with crackerbox apartment buildings - or attracting anyone who wasn't a student to live in the Ghetto.
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Old 11-24-2014, 10:58 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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^^OTOH, when I was at Pitt (back in the Pleistocene) students weren't really encouraged to live in apts. That's apparently still the case in recent years at Carnegie-Mellon, according to a friend who had a kid there who graduated about 5 years ago.

And yeah, students tend to like these old slummy type buildings; they think they have "character". That was the case when I lived in Champaign, IL all those years ago, and it's the case in Boulder at this very moment.
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Old 11-24-2014, 11:42 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohiogirl81 View Post
But does anyone who isn't a student really want to live in the student neighborhood?
As I said, it seems like colleges in towns/small cities actually tend to be a plus for local residents. They tend to be walkable, have lots of local food/retail options, to be pretty safe (minus hooliganism), and often have top-notch school districts (this part seems to be because a sizable number of kids are children of professors, who of course will tend to be smarter, but it tends to provide a "halo" to the town regardless). It seems like it's just big cities where colleges make neighborhoods less desirable - and even then, it's not all big cities (colleges seem to be a net plus in Philly, DC, Chicago, etc).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
^^OTOH, when I was at Pitt (back in the Pleistocene) students weren't really encouraged to live in apts. That's apparently still the case in recent years at Carnegie-Mellon, according to a friend who had a kid there who graduated about 5 years ago.
My wife went to Pitt in the 1990s. She said the shift started happening when a deal was made with the Port Authority to allow Pitt students to ride the bus for free as part of their tuition. Before that, virtually no students would consider living anywhere which wasn't within walking distance of campus. After that the students (particularly on the graduate level) who didn't want to live in a traditional student neighborhood started leaving for other parts of the city.

Last edited by eschaton; 11-24-2014 at 12:48 PM..
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Old 11-24-2014, 11:48 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
As I said, it seems like colleges in towns/small cities actually tend to be a plus for local residents. They tend to be walkable, have lots of local food/retail options, to be pretty safe (minus hooliganism), and often have top-notch school districts (this part seems to be because a sizable number of kids are children of professors, who of course will tend to be smarter, but it tends to provide a "halo" to the town regardless. It seems like it's just big cities where colleges make neighborhoods less desirable - and even then, it's not all big cities (colleges seem to be a net plus in Philly, DC, Chicago, etc).



My wife went to Pitt in the 1990s. She said the shift started happening when a deal was made with the Port Authority to allow Pitt students to ride the bus for free as part of their tuition. Before that, virtually no students would consider living anywhere which wasn't within walking distance of campus. After that the students (particularly on the graduate level) who didn't want to live in a traditional student neighborhood started leaving for other parts of the city.
IME, grad students also don't want to live in hovels like undergrads do. CU has a deal like that with the transit district here (RTD), but still most students like to live near campus.
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Old 11-24-2014, 01:31 PM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
As I said, it seems like colleges in towns/small cities actually tend to be a plus for local residents. They tend to be walkable, have lots of local food/retail options, to be pretty safe (minus hooliganism), and often have top-notch school districts
Even in small college towns and smaller cities, one rarely sees professors, shop owners, and other townfolk living on the same block as the undergrads (grad students are of a different ilk). The student neighborhoods are pretty well - and quite obviously, as evidenced by telltale signs of bicycles lashed to the front porch rails and upholstered furniture on the porches - separated from the working folk.

Where is this Shangri-la where professors and students live shoulder to shoulder in bliss and harmony. LOL
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