Off-Campus, Maybe Off the Radar

To some lowerclassmen, “Winooski” – the name of what would be, in a larger city, a Burlington neighborhood in?stead of a town neighboring Burlington – is still a vague, unfamiliar word. It’s no surprise then that the phrase “Spinner Place” often elicits a similar blank from students. “Isn’t that like, by Hungerford Terrace?” guessed a male junior, who would prefer to remain anon?ymous. “Located in the NEW Win?ooski Falls downtown” and “only one mile from campus” as the Web site states, Spinner Place is a recently completed UVM housing complex marketed specifically to juniors, seniors and graduate stu?dents. But some upperclass?men considering the move might wonder what amenities could compensate for the distance to UVM and the discon?nect from Burlington. “I considered it, but ended up finding somewhere cheaper in South Burlington,” Geoffrey Winder, a first-year student of the UVM Post-Bac Premedi?cal Program, said of the new housing development. “But it was a pain to always have a long way home after hanging out with friends in town or on campus,” continued Winder, who is now enjoying his recently-completed move to a Burlington apartment. Spinner Place – complet?ed only last year – rents two and four bedroom apartments in addition to five townhouses with three, five or eight bed?rooms. The apartments at Spinner Place range from $620 to $760 per bedroom per month – a higher price range than typical rental rates in Burlington. However, rent at Spinner Place includes the cost of heat, water, sewer, ba?sic cable, basic telephone service (no long distance), wire?less Internet and electricity. Every apartment is fully furnished. No need for last minute trips to Recycle North anymore, frantically search?ing for the perfect loveseat that will fit into the allotted 4 x 3 ft. area of space. The build?ing also features two lounges, a study area, laundry rooms, a parking garage and a shuttle that runs to and from UVM campus every 15 minutes. But is a shuttle enough to meld Winooski and Burling?ton into one large community? The college atmosphere and distinct community now in Burlington may very well be lost if more students begin to move outside of the “city”. Anthropology professor Larry Ziegler-Otero, an expert in development and suburbanization, doesn’t think so: “Spinner Place won’t com?promise the UVM community because the student popula?tion is growing,” he said. “We need more off-campus hous?ing for them and there is just not enough space left in down?town Burlington. In addition, off-campus housing for UVM students has really affected the price of housing for mid?dle-class families, making it harder to find affordable housing. Spinner Place might help reduce this problem.” “In Vermont,” Profes?sor Ziegler-Otero explained, “people resist and often dis?miss the idea of diversity be?cause the state is so white. But diversity is not just race, but class as well. Creating af?fordable housing for students, middle class families and singles sounds like a good idea to me.” The construction of Spin?ner Place occurred simultane?ously – if not in conjunction with – the recently redesigned downtown area, Winooski Falls. Winooski Falls was devel?oped on the basis of “smart growth.” According to the Spinner Place Web site, this type of growth encourages pedestrian friendly commu?nities with mixed-use neigh?borhoods, meaning neigh?borhoods where businesses and residences coexist side by side. The hope is that this atmosphere will support a strong sense of community and “vibrant street life,” as the Web site states. “Involving UVM students in Winooski Falls is great,” Ziegler-Otero said. “To bring them into the community out?side of just their roles on cam?pus may lead to a reduction in conflicts between students and the town of Burlington.” While “smart growth” sounds like the ideal alterna?tive to sprawling develop?ment, a quaint and pedestri?an-friendly mixed-use village that does not disturb the natu?ral beauty of Winooski might be hard to achieve. “It is important that Win?ooski Falls continues to build and develop itself in the cen?ter of Winooski, where it should stay, so that there is a central village that won’t in?terfere with the natural envi?ronment,” Professor Ziegler-Otero clarified. Nevertheless, it is easy to imagine that many historic buildings, such as the mills of the early 20th Cen?tury, or the stunning Winooski River, may loose their place in the modern, urbanized Win?ooski Falls. Only time will tell how successful Spinner Place and Winooski Falls will be and how they will affect both UVM and Burlington; but Ziegler-Otero has some ideas. “It will either remain emp?ty or will not stay affordable for very long,” Ziegler-Otero said.