LANE4's presentation at the Memorial Union on Sept. 29 answered many of my questions and dispelled many of my concerns about the revitalization of Campustown. The developers plan for slow methodical changes. The area will not be demolished all at once, as I had feared. And some of their suggestions for Campustown seem plausible, if not desirable.
Iowa State University's interest in Campustown, however, remains a concern. LANE4's proposal called for the university having office space and a "boutique theater" in the neighborhood. The theater would double as classroom space for ISU. Even Peter Orazem, ISU professor of economics also serving on the Ames City Council, approved of "bringing campus into Campustown" at the City Council meeting on Sept. 28.
Frankly, this is a terrible idea. I doubt students would want to attend class and movies in the same place. Campustown is supposed to be where students get away from campus and relax. Lincoln Way serves as a nice border between work and play, one Iowa State should not cross. The idea of a GSB-funded movie theater in Campustown is a different matter. At least it was a student-initiated project. But the university's interests have put this plan on hold indefinitely.
My concerns go beyond blurring work and play. At LANE4's input sessions, people described Campustown as tired-looking, rundown and having deferred maintenance. Yet these same terms can describe a number of buildings on the ISU campus. Take a look around; you will see them. The State Gym, for example, was in such disrepair it needed a complete renovation. Now students pay $212 more in fees for both its renovation and expansion. Each new building, each new expansion, cuts into Iowa State's bottom line. In turn, students directly fund some of these new projects.
Will students fund the university's expansion into Campustown? The answer should be "no." And LANE4 should not feed Iowa State's desire to expand. Instead, input from students and residents, local business and property owners should guide the revitalization. Keep campus out of Campustown!