About a year ago, the University introduced the Hopkins Community Partners Initiative (HCPI), which involves a plan to significantly improve 10 surrounding Hopkins neighborhoods between Penn Station and Wyman Park. The establishment of this initiative is praiseworthy and a necessary progression towards improving the area and the student body’s well-being.
The most obvious advantage of this initiative is that it should expand the “college town” area around campus. A central objective of the HCPI is to attract restaurants, shops and other businesses to the 10 neighborhoods, which should provide a greater array of choices for students. Most relevant to students, it will help burgeon the college town area beyond the collection of restaurants and stores currently on St. Paul Street. Because of the compact nature of the Homewood campus, students rarely venture below 30th street or outside the immediate Charles Village vicinity. The expansion of things to do outside of this area will be a welcome change for the Hopkins population.
A second important advantage has to do with how Baltimore’s reputation limits Hopkins’s ability to attract students. Even with the unexpectedly high yield this year, Baltimore’s reputation for crime and poverty still deter many students from choosing to come — or even apply — to Hopkins. While for many this downside is significantly mitigated by Hopkins’s academic reputation, some of the neighborhoods immediately off-campus fall short of offering satisfactory leisure opportunities or sufficiently reassuring safety. A more energetic and welcoming group of neighborhoods between Penn Station and Hopkins would assure potential students that life as a Hopkins student will not exclusively be spent in a two-mile radius around – and mostly east of – campus.
It would also, be nice to see a greater role for students in this initiative. Until now, few students had extensive knowledge of these plans, and surely many would enthusiastically take part in advancing this measure. Incorporating student opinions on how to improve the areas would be unmistakably beneficial considering the initiative largely focuses on enhancing students’ experiences.
Any measures involving the improvement of safety and leisure opportunities in neighborhoods near campus are worthwhile and necessary. An initiative striving to upgrade these 10 neighborhoods by investing in security, attracting businesses, updating infrastructure and improving environmental efficiency sounds promising, but participation in pushing forth these measures should not be limited to the school administration.