The university’s unstoppable push into downtown Newark

Brandon's BoxCaleb Owens/THE REVIEW
Executive Editor and lifelong Newark resident Brandon Holveck.

BY
Executive Editor

It seems inevitable.

Before long every lot in downtown Newark that isn’t home to an academic building or a dormitory will be occupied by Delaware’s new standard outfit — two or three floors of luxury condominium living and a slew of retail shops on the ground level.

In some locations, planners have dropped the retail side altogether and instead opted for entire complexes of modern brick and bright siding. Think One Easton: the townhomes on Cleveland Avenue and the university’s newly acquired University Courtyards.

In either case, the rundown homes of Newark, chalk full of dust, muck and character, are becoming the lure of yesteryear.

As a student and a lifelong resident of Newark, there are many ways to view the university’s sprawl and the associated bump in luxury off campus housing.

Where I turn first is to the people of Newark. The lifelong residents. The townies.

I’m sorry townies, but there is no stopping this boom. As the student body continues to grow, the university needs more and more housing every year. Even after acquiring the University Courtyards, the university has tentative plans to build a residence hall on South College Avenue, similar in scope to the South Academy Residence Hall complex. Perhaps soon there will be student housing on the STAR campus and in the place of the Christiana Towers.

Of course some of this need is the university’s own doing, as the Rodney and Dickinson complexes were closed by the school and the aforementioned Towers will at some point come down. But these closures were necessary. Would you want to call that brick mess home?

The off campus housing market is expanding rapidly too, with new housing coming soon to South Main Street and Haines Street, among others.

Busy crosswalk/Jaywalking - Louis Mason
Louis Mason/THE REVIEW

In talking to Newark residents this summer while reporting on the water treatment plant that will be constructed at the Rodney dorm site and more generally in my day-to-day interactions, I’ve found a common sentiment. Regardless of how much each resident cared about the treatment plant, they all wanted to make sure their new neighbors weren’t going to be a gaggle of college kids enjoying condo living.

And I’m with them.

While in some ways the university achieving some level of higher prestige through its continual expansion and development will improve the quality of my degree as I pursue employment after graduation, I’m not ready to trade in my hometown for a marginal boost to my academic reputation.

The beauty of a small suburban town like Newark is in its people. It’s in the notion of community and togetherness that comes with playing games in the backyard with the kids next door, swimming at the neighborhood pool and taking late night sidewalk strolls through the development.

When you look out your window, you see the cozy home of your neighbor or maybe the greens of a local park or woods — not the back of an apartment high-rise.

I’m saddened that my fellow community members say they don’t recognize their downtown. Or that they’re bummed Newark looks more like Brooklyn by the day.

And while the trend is no fault of any one entity and should provide some level of economic boost to the businesses big enough to survive, it’s troubling that the makeup of the city has shifted so much that my beloved two-story dump is the exception on the campus’ borders cloaked by condo complex after condo complex.

I came to Delaware, in part, because it wasn’t huge, but it was big enough. Each day, as the university inevitably expands at the expense Newark’s smalltown feel, it teeters toward the former.

Brandon Holveck is the Executive Editor of The Review. He can be contacted at exec@udreview.com.

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