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What kind of town should Storrs be?
April 27, 1998

Would you like to see Storrs develop into something like Northampton or Amherst? Can Storrs become that kind of place? Should it become that kind of place?

Bruce Stave, chair of the University Senate Growth and Development Committee, posed these questions to a panel and audience gathered in the Student Union Lobby on April 16 as part of the weekly Great Moments series showcasing University faculty.

These questions arose last semester during the debate about whether to build a new football stadium in Storrs. Although the stadium debate has subsided, the future of Storrs has been a topic of intense discussions between officials of the University and the Town of Mansfield the past several months.

Stave, a professor of history, decided to put together a panel to air town-gown issues.

"Many of us that live here love it the way it is," said State Rep. Denise Merrill (D-Mansfield). But I do feel ... and I think other people feel there is not a central focal point where people can come together.

So should Storrs become a series of strip malls and shopping centers, asked Stave, or do we want to have what is a more cohesive kind of community that offers many amenities to students, faculty and people in the community.

Sandy Schulte, assistant dean of the graduate school, said it is an issue that affects the University's ability to recruit. Whenever we try to recruit faculty, she said, "they are looking for a sense of community and places to go and they tell us they have not found it here.

Greg Padick, town planner for Mansfield, said Storrs prides itself on having a rural, suburban character. "The residents of the town are not going to change that perspective. We think we have a town that is desirable and the University is a very important facet of the town.

He said many residents in town are afraid of the traffic and environmental impacts that might arise from increased development, with UConn 2000 and the various changes that are going on on campus.

Michael Schor, mayor of Mansfield, said that a college town should have a different feel from a similar community - whether urban or rural - that is not a college town.

Thomas Callahan, associate vice president for institutional advancement, said the University and town officials must work together to figure out what direction Storrs should be heading in.

"Both entities have a shared destiny and we ought to focus on opportunities instead of exclusively on problems," he said.

Already, the University provides the town of Mansfield with an intellectual resource and a quality-of-life factor, when you look at the lectures, the programs in Jorgensen and the School of Fine Arts and athletics, he said.

Callahan added that the presence of the University brings a substantial amount of state aid to the town. "The University of Connecticut is the principal economic driver in this community and in this region," he said.

Luis Mocete