Is Columbia a Different Neighbor? A Comparative Analysis of University Real Estate Acquisition Practices

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Dieg, Melanie
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This research will examine Columbia’s real estate acquisition throughout the course of its two major expansionary periods, and this paper will specifically explore the number of buildings Columbia has acquired, the strategic pattern of acquisition to aid in neighborhood control, the methods Columbia has used to acquire properties, and the change within the racial composition of both the Morningside Heights and Manhattanville neighborhoods. In a broader sense, this paper will examine the integration of university expansion within the city of New York’s development goals, with specific attention towards the prominent planning practices of each respective time period. The paper will begin by examining the available literature on the history of Columbia within New York City. Particular emphasis will be placed on how Columbia’s real estate acquisition was influenced by the university’s self-interest, larger interaction with New York City’s development goals, and the various instances of community opposition. This section will be divided into five sections; Columbia’s beginnings in New York City, Columbia’s initial move uptown, the primary expansionary period, the controversy surrounding the gymnasium proposal, and the major themes within Columbia’s history. The paper will then introduce the details surrounding the Manhattanville expansion from its announcement in 2003 and its final approval in 2009, in order to provide a qualitative analysis of the two expansions. To provide a quantitative insight into real estate practices, this research required both a record of Columbia’s current landholdings and their acquisition dates. As Columbia does not provide this data publicly, this catalog of acquisition dates was created using New York City property tax lot record data. This data provides the opportunity for comparison regarding the number of buildings acquired, the strategic pattern of acquisition to aid in neighborhood control, and the racial change of the expansion neighborhoods based on Decennial Census data from 1940 through 2010. The paper will then conclude with the significance of Columbia achieving a “Good neighbor” status in regards to its relationship with both the city of New York and the neighborhoods and communities that surround its campuses. Future opportunities for effective community and university interaction will also be discussed.
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