The city of Stamford is growing, as is interest in the UConn Stamford campus, but the campus itself is not growing at nearly the same rate. There was a reported 23 percent increase in applications to UConn-Stamford for the 2018-2019 academic year and a 1 percent population increase in Stamford’s population. The increase in campus buildings: zero.
Students clearly want to attend the Stamford campus to take advantage of its proximity to New York City, its position as the third largest concentration of corporations in the nation (only behind Chicago and New York City), and its vibrant urban environment. Some of the exciting amenities Stamford offers include a world-class downtown park, an outdoor skating rink, public beaches, shops and countless restaurants.
Many students and staff have anonymously voiced concerns about the need for a cafeteria, meal plans, more classrooms, more classes, more professors, and more sections of classes. The most common concern, however, was the need for a designated parking lot. UConn president Susan Herbst’s spokesperson said in an email that a new parking is scheduled to open in January 2019. While the new parking lot on Washington Boulevard will help accommodate commuters to the campus, it will not address other equally important concerns.
The old parking garage was torn down earlier this year, leaving in its place a parcel of prime real estate in sought-after downtown Stamford worth tens of millions of dollars. That piece of real estate could have been better integrated with the campus by building a facility that included classroom space and parking spots. Similarly, the construction of a parking lot could have been matched with the construction of another building to accommodate the other popular demands of the student body such as a cafeteria and more classrooms. Instead, only a parking lot was built.
Even though the Stamford campus lags behind in growth, the Storrs campus shows no sign of stopping. A new recreation center is set to open next year, with an estimated completed cost ranging from $75 million to $100 million. There is nothing wrong with building another recreation center on the Storrs campus, but investing in a campus in an urban area like Stamford will probably attract more students and revenue than a recreation center in a rural area.
Stamford will continue to grow and attract new residents as the national trend in demographics is young people moving to urban areas for education, housing and work opportunities. Developers in Stamford are already profiting from this prospect, and they have launched a $6 billion construction boom to meet housing and office space demand in the next few years.
It is now time for UConn to be part of Stamford’s emergence as Connecticut’s cosmopolitan urban center. UConn should add another building to expand classroom capacity to meet the educational demands of the 21st century and add more dorms to match the growing interest in the Stamford campus. Even Stamford Mayor David Martin has expressed his hopes for a larger UConn presence in Stamford’s fast-changing downtown.
The addition of several housing units on the Stamford campus in 2017 is hopefully the beginning of a larger effort to expand UConn-Stamford. There is no doubt that the future of the Stamford campus will determine the future of the entire UConn system, and hopefully the administration will see this as a unique opportunity.
Michael Hernandez is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org