Tax-exempt institutions in a knowledge economy can bring great wealth and vitality to a city such as Boston or Pittsburgh. At the same time, they are just that - tax-exempt. So expansion can mean less land producing much-needed municipal tax revenue.
Advantages and disadvantages are increasingly evident as cities work with universities and medical institutions as partners in urban redevelopment, says Roz Greenstein, chair of the Department of Economic and Community Development. In Boston, she noted, a building boom of dormitories fulfills the goal of pulling more students out of city neighborhoods. But the housing units they vacate typically rent for more than similar -sized units that rent to families. This has the overall affect of pushing up housing costs in the rental market as a whole.
The Lincoln Institute's program on this topic, The City, Land and the University, tracks town-gown dynamics in urban redevelopment throughout the US and around the world (http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/clu/). A dozen researchers studying universities and other large landowners such as hospitals and medical centers gathered at Lincoln House in the fall, sharing a wide range of case studies on the impact of landowners on urban land markets. The case studies included the abandoned textile mills in Mumbai, India; development by the St. Joe Development Corporation, Florida's largest landowner; neighborhood impacts of hospitals in Los Angeles; and university impacts in Worcester, Mass. (Clark University), Savannah, Georgia (Savannah College of Art & Design), and Brasila, Brazil (University of Brasilia and the Catholic University of Brasilia).
Institutional expansion continues to be a big topic in the Boston-Cambridge area. The campus building boom is covered by The Boston Globe here. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced a $750 million campus development program, and plans for Harvard University's campus expansion in Allston are also moving ahead, with a refined master plan and a proposal for a new commuter rail station.