University-Community Partnerships: a strategy to strengthen urban Texas neighborhoods adjacent to universities and break down existing barriers through urban reinvestment



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A common historical pattern that arose across America in the early and mid-20th century was the location of public and private universities inside or immediately adjacent to the urban core. This pattern was primarily driven by the historical proximity to jobs, transportation, economy, and population. Neighborhoods grew around these universities thriving on a symbiotic relationship with them. America saw a shift mid-century however; these once affluent neighborhoods saw their residents fleeing to the suburbs. Depopulation and loss of property value led to the abandonment and disrepair of properties, spikes in crime, socio-demographic changes, and the loss of commerce.

Reacting to these changes, today the edges of universities often play the physical or symbolic role of a walled city or castle; a fortified island of resources and assets disconnected from their surrounding communities. Often situated in impoverished and underserved inner-city areas, these neighborhoods often have a reputation for being unsafe and blighted. Recent national trends include an influx of population and economy back into our urban centers, but often this revival is accompanied by displacement of longstanding community members who can no longer afford to remain in place. Developments strictly tailored to students are destroying neighborhoods one block at a time and are not the foundation of a resilient community. An alternative pattern exists that will allow for a diverse and thriving community capable of social, economic, and environmental sustainability: University-Community Partnerships (UCPs).

This report looks at the potential to foster positive relationships between urban universities in the state of Texas and their local communities by partaking in UCPs. Universities can leverage their assets (knowledge, capital, and manpower) to enhance community safety, healthy, economic vitality, housing affordability, and other factors while also mutually benefiting themselves with increased perception, safety, support, and even financial gain. The report explores case studies to understand the opportunities and potential afforded by UCPs as well as their limitations. The report then demonstrates this potential in Texas with a hypothetical UCP scenario in San Antonio.