Congratulations! Wednesday marked the official groundbreaking of University Village, the first student housing to be built on the Coral Gables campus in more than 35 years. This momentous occasion has been postponed time and time again throughout the past 13 years, with problems stemming mostly from disagreements between UM, the UM Neighbors Home Owners Association (UMNHOA) and the city of Coral Gables. How ironic, then, that Wednesday’s groundbreaking was postponed due to the weather.
The construction, however, is not being met with as much enthusiasm from students as one might predict. In fact, most students are numb to the whole situation because we have been hearing about it for so long. It’s the whole boy-who-cried-wolf phenomenon; after all, The Hurricane has been reporting that construction was to begin shortly since March of 2003. It’s not as if the University has not been pushing for the construction, because they have been fighting-ok, maybe not actually fighting, but pretty close to it-with the neighbors for years.
The unfortunate part is that because the construction was delayed so many times, most of the students who worked hard to see the project come to fruition will never even get the chance to live there. The struggle has been a difficult one that the University officials, students and alumni have pushed to resolve in order to better the campus environment by allowing more students to live on campus.
Few students probably remember the petition signing in November of 2002 in support of University Village, or the countless arguments with the UMNHOA about how we horrible, heathen college students would ruin the neighborhood. UMNHOA talked about how the increase in traffic from the additional college student residents would mean that their children would no longer be safe playing in the front yard because they may get hit by students speeding through the neighborhood. They complained about students smoking pot in their cars in front of neighbors houses and running to their doors and ringing the doorbells-a quick word to the neighbors: those are your kids, not UM students.
Yet, the University persevered. Meeting after meeting was held, students petitioned and spoke about the importance of new residences. President Shalala stressed that the new residences would help recruit and retain top-level students. There was mediation and lots of compromises. In the end, it may not be the perfect situation, but it will have to do.
We can only hope that the University didn’t burn too many bridges with Coral Gables and the neighbors, and that University Village lives up to all of its hype. And for those expecting construction to be completed as scheduled by Fall 2006, don’t hold your breath.