Monday, September 21, 2009

University doing its part to make UCity safe and livable

Guest blog by Paul Nowell

The Charlotte Observer recently ran a column that highlights the enormous, if not insurmountable, challenges facing the part of the city aptly named for the campus it encompasses.

Located less than 10 miles from the city’s business district, the residents of University City have plenty of reasons to be proud. First and foremost, University City is home base to North Carolina’s urban research institution. UNC Charlotte's enrollment of 24,700 includes students, faculty and staff from 80 countries. Consequently, UCity is the most diverse area in Charlotte.

University City also is the Charlotte region's second-largest employment center. Not too shabby, huh? So what’s the problem?

Much like UNC Charlotte’s efforts to shed a persistent but outdated image, University City faces its own self-esteem problem. Kevin Toomb, marketing co-chair for University City Partners, noted too few people don’t know or just don’t care to find out the kinds of things the community has to offer.

Toomb is launching a brand campaign for University City. It comes on the heels of the UNC Charlotte’s own brand campaign, which urges students, faculty, staff and neighbors to “Stake Your Claim” in the university.

Toomb calls UNC Charlotte the “crown jewel” of UCity. He’s absolutely right. In addition to being the center for learning and research, the university also serves as a gathering place for neighbors to attend cultural events.

Still, anyone who lives or works in UCity knows there are challenges. Some Observer readers commented that the community suffer from crime and urban sprawl. While some of those comments may be true, UNC Charlotte is working to make UCity a better place, from the campus, outward.

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois has made campus safety a top-of-mind issue; data on campus-area crime show that the campus is very safe. Even during tight economic times, Dubois has beefed up campus security.

Police patrol the campus and surrounding areas 24/7 on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, and car. Efforts also have been made to reach out to property managers at off-campus housing complexes to make sure they are providing safety tips to their residents. The University's new Master Plan, which will be finalized in a few months, presents options that will enhance the campus area even further. UCity is go through growing pains, but it is getting better.

Paul Nowell is media relations manager at UNC Charlotte

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