A Catawba Downtown Campus?

Last week, I read this article in The Salisbury Post:

Local developer outlines unique approach to Empire Hotel project

It occurs to me that Catawba College should buy the whole thing and have a downtown campus with offices, classrooms, and dorms.

This could bring Downtown Salisbury to life.

I live beside the college and we’re always squabbling about zoning.

We, who live here, want to keep the neighborhood intact, and nice.

But more and more homes are being acquired by investors who are connected to the college.

These homes are being converted from family housing into dormitory, frat-style housing.

And, every couple of years, Catawba seeks to rezone residential property in our neighborhood to college/university zoned property.

What’s clear is that Catawba, a great institution that Salisbury is lucky to have, wants to grow — and they may need to grow in order to compete. And they have every right to grow.

But the neighborhood sometimes gets in the way of the college’s desired plans to grow.

Ironically, not having a neighborhood around a campus may diminish the character and charm of that campus.

Having an axillary campus downtown, across the street from an amazing theatre, might open up opportunities for expanding Catawba’s theatre department, arguably one of its best and most renowned programs.

Some business courses might benefit from meeting downtown the way some science courses might meet on the nature preserve. They would be surrounded by dozens of small, functioning businesses.

Young people need places to hang out, and there are several unique, wonderful restaurants just around the corner.

While it will remove that space as a location for potential tax revenue from new retail, restaurants, and offices, imagine how much it will help the stores and restaurants that currently exist in the downtown.

The downtown’s population increase could cause a real, sustained, economic stimulus for the entire downtown area.

Because college students have parents, and those parents often live out of town and visit Salisbury some weekends in order to visit their children, it could also benefit local tourism.

Leaving a neighborhood around a campus intact, as a neighborhood, adds character and charm to the campus.

A downtown campus could also have lots of unique character and charm. Some students (not all of them, obviously) may be attracted to a more urban vibe. It would be different, of course — but it would still have its own kind of character and charm.

And it would provide economic benefit for both the college and the city.

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