If there’s one thing that sets Drexel University apart from other schools, it’s our parking lots. Drexel is home to a vast expanse of parking lots, which take up almost the entire 3100 block of Chestnut Street, all of the north side of JFK Boulevard, and various other sites all around campus. In a school that sits directly on top of two subway stations and that has a major intercity and regional rail station right next to campus, it’s important to have adequate parking. Why? Because public transportation and biking is for the poor, and every day I thank God that President John A. Fry recognizes this.
This is why I applaud Drexel’s decision to demolish the Intercultural Center in favor of a new hotel rather than building it on one of our valuable surface parking lots. Our real worth as a university lies not in the Hess Engineering Labs or our Intercultural Center but in our wealth of easily accessible surface parking, which we have in quantities that the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University cannot even hope to possess. Rather than senselessly destroy surface parking simply to add to university facilities, we have taken the sane and sensible route: cramming a building in the 20 feet between Creese Student Center and Chestnut Street, demolishing our engineering labs to build a new apartment building (it’s not like our school focuses on engineering or anything, after all!), and now taking out our Intercultural Center, essentially a useless building, and replacing it with a boutique hotel and conference center. My only qualm with the plan is that it will also take out the Intercultural Center’s parking lot, but alas, no plan can be perfect.
Now some of you may argue with me, so I’ll make my point clear: Drexel needs its large surface parking lots. With so much of the student body concentrated so close to campus and with Drexel offering incentives for faculty and staff members to own homes within the city and within walking distance from campus, it is clear that we need parking for all the automobile traffic thus generated. Plus, there are no good ways to get to campus otherwise, unless you’re willing to take SEPTA or bike like one of the poor, and if you’re poor, how can you afford tuition here anyway? Our students and faculty will always drive, whether the distance is two blocks or 200 blocks.
“But why not just put parking underground?” you might ask. Hmph! We are an exclusive school, with exclusive tuition, and we want our students to be able to show off their exclusive automobiles. Underground lots do not allow this. The underground lot in the new apartment building that will replace the Hess Labs ought to be replaced with a surface lot on Lancaster Avenue, perhaps in place of Savas, to really complete the plan. But I digress.
Drexel’s plan to demolish the Intercultural Center is truly a progressive and valuable one, and I, for one, am glad that our administration sees our surface parking lots not as vacant lots, simply available for development, but as opportunities. Opportunities to park cars.
Justin Roczniak is the op-ed editor of The Triangle. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.