- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut’s main campus boasts a string of new buildings, thanks to a multibillion-dollar infusion of state cash. The student body is growing. And there are two powerhouse basketball teams that bring big-time sports to a rural corner of the state.

There’s one thing, however, that UConn doesn’t have: a college town.

So it has decided to help build one from scratch — complete with shops, restaurants, hundreds of apartments and even a traditional New England town green.

The project exemplifies the growing interest of colleges and universities in their surrounding communities. Many have realized that a building boom of dormitories, student centers and libraries isn’t enough. Students don’t want an “ivory tower” experience; they want to be part of broader communities that offer commerce, culture and cuisine.

But while many colleges are working to expand or revitalize nearby neighborhoods, this project may be unique in that it is trying to construct one anew.

“People ask us if there are other examples,” said Cynthia van Zelm, executive director of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership. “I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ ”

Most colleges, even small rural ones, have grown up around a town or spawned one, as businesses opened to keep students supplied with books, pizza, beer and coffee.

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