When asked to write a short blog on our relationships with our local higher education partner, my question is which one? Most people don’t realize that Auburn Hills is a college town with five institutions having a footprint here. We have different relationships with each institution, but we are actively engaged with them all.Having more than 35,000 college students coming to our community every week puts us in a unique situation that we don’t believe we have capitalized on, yet.
But that process of active engagement has begun and I believe is highlighted by one of our projects in our downtown.
During the downturn in the economy some rundown properties were made available to us and we jumped at the opportunity to create more public value.
We knew, as a community, we lacked some housing components for college students. We also found through a survey of students that what they would like is a place to gather that was not a bar.
Another piece of information we found out through our interaction with all of our education partners is that high-tech classroom area is at a premium on all their campuses.
Through the efforts of many people and much cooperation between Oakland University, Oakland Community College, Baker College, Cooley Law School, Avondale School District and even our Chamber of Commerce and the private sector, we have launched a great downtown project that is changing the face of our community and building that sense of place.Briefly, I will attempt to explain this series of projects that started with a simple conversation.
University Center is an old, two-story structure that is being re-purposed into two downstairs high-tech classrooms (one will fit 50 people the other 30-plus). The upper level will become Avondale High School’s Virtual Learning Center.
The colleges have all worked together for scheduling of the classrooms and to determine how the rooms would be furnished (chairs and tables and with the plug and play technology).
Directly next door is a private housing developer who has worked with Oakland University and Cooley Law School to create 97 graduate student housing apartments, with retail on the first floor. This structure is wrapped around a four-story parking structure that our Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) district built and is attached to the housing complex.Last, but not least, is a historic log cabin that the city owns which was modernized and furnished as a public gathering place with multiple fireplaces and deck area. This space also offers free wifi and areas for group study.
This is obviously a Readers Digest version of our project, but it all started with a simple conversation between a municipality and higher education officials when we decided to work together. Is it working? Well, you be the judge, we would love to have you visit downtown Auburn Hills.
Peter Auger is the city manager for Auburn Hills.