Real estate companies continue to buy vacant lots, remodel, and rent existing properties around Temple to be sold to students. With this influx of residential students the university must balance student and community concerns now more than ever. Temple’s Office of Community Relations serves as a liaison with the surrounding community.
“The community relations office is typically the first point of contact between the community and the university,” Beverly Coleman, Assistant Vice President for Community Relations said.
That first point of contact is usually at community campus councils where residents can have their voice heard. The university holds separate councils for community members west and east of campus.
Those living east of campus organize in the Yorktown Community Organization. However, residents living along the western border of campus have no official representative group.
Many concerns from the surrounding community involve residents’ perception of Temple’s expansion. One common concern is the effect this expansion has on living costs for residents.
North Philadelphia resident Pete Bobbison says that the expansion is positive because it helps to clean up the community. He did, however, express concern for the apparent rising costs in the area.
“It could be negative because I mean just look at just the bars up there alone are expensive and all the dining and eating and stores. They’re more expensive than the corner stores people are used to,” Bobbison said.
Although rising costs may be a side effect of Temple’s expansion, the
university looks to use the expansion as a way to provide programs to help support the surrounding community.
According to Coleman the Community Relations Office offers over 40 classes for residents. These courses include a GED preparation course and a course on computer and IT basics. These courses aren’t free, but can be taken by community members for under $55 per course depending on their financial need.
These programs have been greeted with mostly positive public reaction.
“Well it’s improving the neighborhood without a doubt. You know it makes it more attractive to people to move into the neighborhood,” said Robert Freeman, a North Philadelphia homeowner on Jefferson Street.
One such public program will be located at the site of the old William Penn High School. Temple plans to knock down the old, and now abandoned, facility and replace it with new athletic fields for students along with a career training facility for the community.
Although these public programs help to boost the community’s support of Temple’s expansion some people are still unhappy with what more Temple students living around campus means for their everyday life.
“People are concerned about quality of life issues, and so typically it’s parties that are very loud, and very late at night,” Coleman said.
Members of the community often cite such parties, along with the increased litter they create, as one of the biggest problems Temple poses in the community.
While Temple continues to shift from its original role as a commuter college to more of a residential school, the Community Relations Office is there to allow residents to give input to the university.
Beverly Coleman believes that serving as an in-between for the community is one of the most vital jobs her office provides.
“I think what’s important is that we have a dialogue and that we have
a relationship. That foundation, I find, is incredibly important.”