OPINION: Detroit Mercy would benefit from investing in local neighborhood

University of Detroit Mercy has an incredible opportunity to enhance and improve the McNichols campus for future generations. UDM should make a commitment to invest in the area. It would greatly improve student life and the community. By investing in the neighbourhood, UDM could increase attendance and become more competitive in bringing in prospective students from both in state and out of state.  

For years, the surrounding area around the UDM campus has been an eyesore with vacant homes and burned-out buildings. At times it looks like the wild west. Outside the fence of the school, it is not safe to walk at night and some might even say it is not safe during the day. I believe many parents and students decide not to go to UDM because of the current state of the area.  

Recently the city of Detroit has invested in the area with the Livernois Avenue Corridor Project. This project, which is a few blocks away from McNichols campus, is a significant improvement to the revitalization of the Livernois-McNichols neighbourhood. It included wider sidewalks, bike lanes and improved landscaping. Most importantly it enhanced the safety of the area by an increased police presence and the enhanced street lighting. UDM could build on this resurgence in the area.  

Recently UDM has invested on campus with a new student union and creating more green space. However off campus they could build on these current improvements by buying land and buildings that surround the campus. They could remove blighted structures, clean up vacant lots and renovate homes to attract new residents. They could also invest in a retail area that would be safe for students and the faculty to enjoy. Students could be part of helping rebuild the neighbourhoods with class projects and programs that focus on community developments. 

Recently I  visited a handful of different college campuses with my little brother who will be attending college next year. Most of the universitys we visited have a walkable retail area with restaurants and stores for students and faculty. Also, the on-campus student living was thriving with many options for the students to enjoy. Being a current UDM student, it is easy to see what we are missing when comparing campus life for students.   

Nearby Wayne State University, which is located in Midtown in downtown Detroit, has significantly improved its campus and surrounding area over the past few years. UDM could follow WSU’s example and invest in the neighbourhood. Not only would this improve attendance to the college, it would also strengthen ties between the university and the local community. Opportunities could start to emerge like bringing back UDM football, building a community athletic centre and adding event spaces for concerts and shows.  

This is the perfect time for UDM to improve the McNichols campus by building on the Detroit resurgence and the recent investments like the Livernois-McNichols project. The opportunity to invest in the campus and surrounding neighbourhoods has never been better. The cost for purchasing nearby real estate is probably still affordable and worth the investment. 

This improvement would also help the community by increasing property values and an improved quality of life for existing and future residents. It would also help retain students and inspire them to live on and near campus.