Wes, 1; Centerplan, 0.
A week after last Tuesday’s Bookstore Relocation Open Forum—during which students, faculty, Middletown residents, and alumni came together and spoke out against the Washington Street development with unwavering fervor—Assistant Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe and Associate Vice President for Finance Nate Peters confirm that Wesleyan’s bookstore is staying precisely where it is:
On the basis of strong community sentiment, Wesleyan has decided not to relocate its bookstore to Washington Street. Objections to the bookstore relocation (and planned development) included concerns about pedestrian safety, increased traffic, and disruption of the residential neighborhood. Wesleyan had signed a non-binding agreement with the developer, Centerplan Companies, to give the University the opportunity to discuss the proposal with its community before reaching any conclusions. On November 27, Wesleyan held an open forum on the proposed relocation, and the views of faculty, staff, students and neighbors from Middletown who participated were strongly against the proposal. Wesleyan also sought and received community input on a blog it created about the proposed relocation, and Wesleyan administrators received emails from and held conversations with individuals and campus groups.
According to WSA Finance and Facilities Committee Chair Andrew Trexler ’14, he and WSA Pres Zachary Malter ’13 met with Peters and Topshe last week and “conveyed a broad range of student opinion, which was predominantly opposed to the move and the development.” We have it on good authority that Wesleying’s current weekly poll, which finds only 7% of respondents supporting both the development and the bookstore relocation, played a role in this discussion, which is probably enough to get your old AP Statistics teacher riled up and yelling. Over the weekend, Trexler adds, “the administration got together and decided the bookstore move was a bad idea.” Their call was announced at the faculty meeting yesterday. Red & Black Cafe staff can take a collective deep breath.
Of course, that’s not to say the controversial Washington Street development won’t move forward as planned without Wesleyan’s participation. It will just be smaller—a two-floor building instead of three. At last week’s forum, Centerplan CEO Robert Landino made it clear that he intends to break ground this coming spring absent major opposition from city officials and declared, “If you disagree with it, get on the commission and be one of the decision-makers.” In one memorable moment, a community member stood up and vowed to run for office:
Wesleyan, of course, is still under contract to sell one of its Washington Street properties to Centerplan. According to Trexler, faculty presented some opposition to this sale in the form of a resolution at yesterday’s meeting. “We’re under contract, which has legal implications,” Trexler adds, “so if we renege on it, there could be consequences—or there may not be.”
Mayor Drew’s support for the development remains a major boon for Centerplan. I emailed Mayor Drew last week, linking him to some coverage of Tuesday’s forum and encouraging him to listen to the community’s concerns regarding the project. He replied today. Though he reiterates his support for the bookstore move, Drew tells me he was “heartened by the tone of the debate” and calls it a “very healthy process”: