City/University Planning Group Dreams Big
City Council Meets CollegeTown!
A University Without Walls, Where Campus and City Life Converge
Sept. 27, 2010
After a long, penetrating look at the neighborhoods south of the campus, bordered by Nutwood Avenue, Chapman Avenue and State College Boulevard, a joint city/university planning group is proposing to create a special district of liveable streets, trails and walkways linking learning, living, working, shopping and dining environments.
They're calling it CollegeTown @ Cal State Fullerton -- a 60-acre mix of pedestrian-friendly civic and public spaces easily accessible by bike, bus and shuttle, where campus and city life can converge. And while project planners are quick to acknowledge that financing, planning and developing the district may be the work of a decade or more, the enthusiasm with which they speak of the area's possibilities makes them seem as real as tomorrow.
CollegeTown had its first public airing at the Sept. 21 meeting of the Fullerton City Council when Robert M. Zur Schmiede, executive director of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency, recounted the two years of planning, traffic studies and interviews conducted since the partnership effort began in December 2007.
Zur Schmiede introduced Randy Jackson, who took the Fullerton City Council on an illustrated tour of CollegeTown @ Cal State Fullerton, the group's visionary reconceptualization of the area bordered by State College to the west, Nutwood to the north, Chapman to the south and the 57 Freeway to the east.
Jackson, a principal with the Costa Mesa-based Planning Center, a consultancy specializing in imaginative approaches to urban growth, land development and community planning, worked closely with the project team to re-imagine the east Fullerton setting as a place where the campus and city life converge -- a setting marked by town squares and other expansive public spaces, areas for arts and entertainment, a network of livable streets conveniently accessible by bike, bus and shuttle.
The draft plan calls for the reconfiguration of parts of Nutwood Avenue and Commonwealth as pedestrian-friendly green space to create a destination neighborhood analogous to similar mixed-use development efforts that have proven so successful at Arizona State University, Ohio State University and the University of Connecticut.
Other innovative ideas being considered for the project include a local trolley system connecting key Fullerton destinations, reclaiming Nutwood as a pedestrian mall and redesigning Commonwealth to be pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. The draft plan produced by the university/city collaboration seeks to create "a university without borders" by removing Nutwood as a barrier separating the campus from the community, and including features to appeal to university and community members alike.
In developing the vision, the group interviewed a cross section of property owners surrounding the university, including representatives of the other colleges adjacent to the university to get a sense of their futures.
"Almost to an individual, they supported the whole concept collectively and expressed eagerness to see this vision become reality," Jackson said.
Pamela Hillman, vice president for university advancement, and Annette Feliciani, chair of the Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors also appeared before the council to speak in support of CollegeTown.
"I look forward to working with you on CollegeTown," Hillman said. "I've never been more excited about a project in my entire professional life."
A Big Idea for CSUF
Feliciani was similarly enthusiastic. "I represent the group that is out there trying to raise the money, and this is the big idea for our university."
Council members received the draft plan with unanimous and unqualified support, and directed the city/university planning group to seek community and university response and report back to the City Council Redevelopment Agency at a future date.
Council member Sharon Quirk-Silva called the presentation "inspiring, and one that will really help in establishing public awareness of Fullerton as an education city. This kind of plan is really very much in line with what the state of California is challenging us to do -- create areas that will keep people in the city, get them out of their cars and provide housing."
"Seldom do you see a university and a city work as well as these two have. This is a great team doing great work together," Zur Schmiede said.