Last week, The Philadelphia City Planning Commission was presented with the plans for new additions to campus on the 3200 block of Chestnut Street in the small grass area in front of MacAlister Hall and the Creese Student Center, which include three new residence halls, retail and office space, and a parking garage located behind Creese. At first glance, this is an exciting announcement for students to hear. Drexel has been in the process of expanding the University City campus into the West Philadelphia community for the past few years, a strategy that ultimately aims to improve campus aesthetics as well as attract new students to our ever-improving University. Admissions at Drexel are rising rapidly each year, and the University is gaining credibility and esteem from high school students and college review boards alike. Therefore, it is only logical for campus to evolve organically with this heightened interest by building more residence halls to accommodate the yearly influx of freshmen.
However, we are skeptical of these specific plans for a few major reasons. First of all, most students will probably hear this news and think we’ve got our facts wrong. They can’t possibly be building not one but three new residence halls on that minuscule plot of land in front of the Hans, right? Well, we did a double take when we first found out too, but yes, apparently 863 students will have room to live comfortably in that area of land. Honestly, this is hard to believe, and the fact that no architectural plans were shown to students makes it seem rather questionable. Furthermore, the City Planning Commission was informed of these plans before Drexel students. Considering that they will serve as our personal living quarters for one full year, we’d like to be notified and included in the planning process — especially when the plans seem barely feasible due to the proposed location.
Though we fully support much of the expansion that is occurring on campus and are truly interested to learn about the specific concepts for this new project, it’s hard to get behind these plans until we are at least presented with a better idea of what the final product will look like. We sincerely hope the University will involve the Drexel community in the planning process, sooner rather than later. Unlike most universities, our campus is very compact; blocking even one building changes all of our traffic patterns. Though the commission supervisor assured the commission that Creese and MacAlister won’t be demolished, that doesn’t mean they won’t be impacted by construction — and we’ve all seen how construction affects our ability to get to class. That being said, the addition of new dorms on campus is a fantastic thing, and we’re genuinely excited that the University has developed these plans. Expansion and growth are positive changes that will continue to better the University, and for that reason, we are eagerly looking forward to the execution of this project.