Saturday, December 20, 2014

With community input, Villanova will take its time on plan

On Friday, we reported on the new organization in opposition to the Villanova University campus expansion, the Right Plan for Radnor. One thing Kevin Geary, a founding member of the group, reiterated is that the university’s plans aren’t acceptable as is. When asked if he would approve of plans within the zoning code, Geary said, “I don’t know what those plans would look like.”

With community input, Villanova will take its time on plan

Villanova´s preliminary design concept for the residence halls that would house 1,160 students was presented to the Board of Commissioners informally in February. (Courtesy Villanova University)
Villanova's preliminary design concept for the residence halls that would house 1,160 students was presented to the Board of Commissioners informally in February. (Courtesy Villanova University)

On Friday, we reported on the new organization in opposition to the Villanova University campus expansion, the Right Plan for Radnor. One thing Kevin Geary, a founding member of the group, reiterated is that the university’s plans aren’t acceptable as is. When asked if he would approve of plans within the zoning code, Geary said, “I don’t know what those plans would look like.”

Joe Vandergeest, another member of the Right Plan for Radnor, said if Villanova were to present such plans, he simply couldn’t fight it.

“I wouldn’t be able to argue with them,” Vandergeest said. “It would be their right.”

Villanova hasn’t formally presented plans to the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners yet, and Chris Kovolski, the university’s assistant to the president for internal and external affairs, said he’s expecting the first round of community feedback at the March 26 board meeting. Radnor’s township manager Bob Zienkowski will present the comments to the board after hosting a forum with residents March 21.

The university is also set to schedule its own community meetings in April or May.

“I want to reiterate that this is not something we’re looking to do on an accelerated basis,” Kovolski said. “We’ll consider a lot of the feedback, and is part of doing [this] right and thinking about things carefully.”

Asked how much the university would be willing to alter its current plan, Kovolski said it would be “tough for me to say what sort of areas we’re willing to consider.”

“This project on our end is very important for lots of different reasons, so we want to make sure what works for us works for the community,” he added.

Administrators at Villanova continually emphasis they have no intentions of increasing enrollment because it would defeat the purpose of expanding the campus itself: If the university has more students to house, they wouldn’t be actively increasing the number of students who will be able to live on campus with the proposed 1,160 beds.

“We are community-driven with small class sizes. Any increase to enrollment would be an increase to our faculty,” Kovolski said. “It really is counter-productive.”

While Kovolski said getting student renters back on campus is something community members tell the university they want, the decision to expand the campus along Lancaster Avenue is also business-minded. Surveys Villanova administered to parents, incoming and outgoing students and accepted students who chose other institutions said an on-campus environment is key.

“They’re looking for a complete educative experience,” Kovolski said.

“The students we would ultimately house for this project are in eighth, ninth and tenth grade,” he added. “We know it’s going to become a more competitive environment. They will become more academically advanced, and their parents just aren’t satisfied with the opportunities that we can and cannot offer.”

About this blog
Josh Fernandez is a 2011 graduate of Temple University where he studied journalism and gender studies. He was a writer and editor for The Temple News, and has interned at Philadelphia City Paper and the Philadelphia Daily News. Josh lived in Aston, Pa. in Delaware County before moving to University City in Philadelphia.

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