A new trend is showing up on U.S. college campuses: huge retail centers being developed with the cooperation of universities, and the hope that potential students will take development into consideration when choosing a college.

Development on campus includes everything from book stores and coffee shops, to restaurants and sports bars. The centers provide convenience for students, but according to an article on Retail Traffic, a magazine that publishes news and information about the current retail and real estate market, universities are using the on-grounds facilities to benefit their recruiting efforts and bring in revenue:

"Colleges across the country are now building retail centers that, developers say, enhance campus security, improve community relations and revive neighborhoods — and give schools another source of revenue at a time when every little bit helps."

Universities and community colleges have typically included small eating places, a place to purchase textbooks and school supplies, and limited apparel shops (usually selling mascot clothing and school gear). The new shopping venues are much, much larger, and are attracting the big chains.

Some universities are using the idea of large-scale development to ease problems in neighborhoods surrounding the campus. The LA Times reported last summer that a multi-million dollar development is in the works for the University of Southern California (USC). The project, scheduled to begin in two years, includes a movie theater, office space, extra dorms, and a parking garage.

Controversy

Along with hopes for profit, recruitment advantage, and community revitalization, the projects have not been free from controversy.

While shopping centers and entertainment venues mean new jobs and revenue for both the university and city, neighbors around USC voiced concern over the project, and what it could mean for the area surrounding the school:

"Many neighbors say they would welcome the proposed housing and improved shopping venues but worry that the new retail could be too upscale for the area. Many also are concerned about increased traffic on the narrow side streets of North University Park. And some landlords who cater to USC students say they fear the change will harm their often lucrative rental businesses."

At the University of Arkansas, the Garland Center opened a few months ago, ready for the start of the fall semester. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that more stores are planned, attracting big businesses like Office Max, Clinique cosmetics, and Nike.

These shopping centers set in the backyard of university housing make it easier for students to get what they need — or want. In the current economy, only time will tell whether or not these big retail plans will pay off in the future.

What do you think about retail development in the dorm's backyard?

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