A Hidden But Helpful Impact of Universities on Communities

Living in the shadow of so many big universities, I always have to chuckle when a neighbor
complains to me, "You know, we'd be able to enjoy all of this great retail if it wasn't for these pesky students."  To which I chuckle back but then correct them: "What great retail would be here but for these 'pesky' students?"

Penn is an extreme example, given the size and relative affluence of its student body, but even smaller and less affluent schools represent an extraordinary amount of retail demand, which props up far more and far better options than in their absence.  Particularly in urban neighborhoods, quality and quantity of retail is a hugely important quality of life amenity, not just for the choices offered by restaurants and stores but for the effect they have on the built environment.

It ain't all roses living in the midst of a big university population.  But there are, in my opinion, many more pros than cons.  And one, hidden but helpful pro is far more great retail than could otherwise be supported by a neighborhood by itself. 

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