I love Fall. After living for years in Boulder, Colorado, where it seemed to jump suddenly from summer to winter (and then back again, several times), I do appreciate the seasons here in beautiful Corvallis. Harrison Boulevard, always my favorite street in town, is a sight to see as the leaves turn and fall.
In the last two weeks, Corvallis has undergone its annual autumn transformation as OSU students return for classes. Streets around campus are crowded with bicycles and groups of students learning their way; cars have to stop at every block’s crosswalk. New students and their nervous parents flood Fred Meyer, shopping carts filled with sheets, pillows, and towels, a few dishes, toiletries, snack foods … everything you need to set up house in a dorm.
Yes, it’s crowded and crazy. Yes, it takes longer to get around town. But isn’t the university one of the big reasons we live here?
I write this because I want to be clear – the folks who are members of Responsible Development Corvallis appreciate and understand the integral relationship between our town and our university. We are partners in creating and maintaining the vibrant culture that is Corvallis.
That is why one of the issues that really concerns me about current development in Corvallis is this: are we really okay accepting the invasion by out-of-state developers who are looking to cash in on the current trend in real estate — off-campus, “purpose built” student housing? Apartments with four and five bedrooms, bathrooms, and leases? A “resort-like lifestyle” in what is essentially dormitories? These developers push “premier” housing with a long list of amenities, insisting that they provide the college experience as it should be, when in fact many of these amenities are extras that allow them to charge higher rents – and drive rental prices up all over town.
It will serve us well to remember this about life: what goes up must surely come down, trends come and go, and every boom has its bust. The downward shift may not come tomorrow, but it will surely come as tuition continues to rise, the economy improves, the job market flourishes, and the university finally adapts to a largely online, technology-driven curriculum. If we fill our town with housing complexes built purposely for students, what will be the fate of these developments when on-campus student enrollment declines and vacancy rates soar?