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Creating a Community with Town and Gown

Fullerton City Council and Area Universities Consider Proposed Plan for CollegeTown

Feb. 13, 2013

CollegeTown, a proposed plan for the area immediately south of Cal State Fullerton, was the topic of discussion during a Feb. 5 study session attended by the Fullerton City Council, representatives of CSUF and Hope International University and a city-hired planning consultant.

Residents of Fullerton were present and invited to share their thoughts on the proposal that features a shared network of outdoor spaces, streets, pedestrian paths, a "town square" and courtyards for the area bordered by State College Boulevard to the west, Nutwood Avenue to the north, Chapman Avenue to the south and the 57 Freeway to the east.

"CollegeTown starts with a vision," said Karen Gulley, project consultant with The Planning Center, a planning and design firm working with the city. "We are viewing CollegeTown as a place where campus life and city life converge."

Among the key vision goals are:

  • Attracting the right mix and design of uses to appeal to students and the community
  • Creating a learning, living, working, shopping and dining environment
  • Maximizing accessibility by bus, transit, walking or bicycling
  • Reducing and managing traffic associated with the universities by providing additional housing and services in CollegeTown

Some of the key goals of CollegeTown include:

  • Providing additional housing for nearly 14,000 students, faculty and staff
  • Reducing the number of cars commuting to campus (because of new housing proximity to campus)
  • Developing new retail, services and restaurants (with a reduced need for cars since these will be within walking distance)
  • Improving bus access (by providing a bus transfer station)
  • Developing new circulation and parking improvements that will enhance parking and traffic flow in the area
  • Instituting a partial closure of Nutwood Avenue from Folino Drive to Titan Drive to increase safety and activity in CollegeTown, remove barriers between the two partnering universities (CSUF and Hope) and reclaim area as a public space

A two-year planning process launched the program with community members commenting at town hall-type meetings and through a MindMixer website that attracted more than 3,000 visitors (with 309 active participants).

Planners also looked at what other state universities, such as Ohio and Arizona, did to develop similar projects, and are modeling plans on the successes of these institutions.

"We see this as a place for learning, living and shopping with easy access to transit, whether it's buses, trains, bicycling or walking," said Gulley.

The new CollegeTown project also offers the possibility of the campuses and community offering food festivals, art shows, concerts and other activities. In addition, there are plans for a community theater at Hope International University's Pacific Auditorium. All the buildings in CollegeTown will be built by private land owners and developers who are attracted by the possibilities of the plan.

Concerns about the street closure were addressed and planners believe traffic flow on outlying streets can be enhanced with traffic signal coordination, street widening projects, improved bus service and new vehicle connections before any changes commence on Nutwood Avenue.

"Cal State Fullerton added 1,056 student residents in 2011; University House (at the corner of Commonwealth and Chapman) will add 1,275 beds in 2013," said Jay Bond, associate vice president for facilities planning and management. "One of the best things we can do for the community and the environment is to provide students with housing and amenities that allow them to walk or bike among the places they live, study, work, shop and play."

"One highlight that is often overlooked is the benefit that the community at large will see," said Dwayne Mason Jr., president of Cal State Fullerton's Associated Students Inc. "CollegeTown is already beginning to trigger the start of many necessary conversations between students and the community members. There has been friction over the years between these two groups.

"I'm here to share that we, as students, want to help find the solution," Mason continued. "Building this community is the way to do it. At any given time, tens of thousands of students are in this city. We are huge stakeholders in this project and what goes on in the city of Fullerton. The more we come together, the more we can really begin to understand one another, work toward building a stronger community between us, and take Fullerton and Orange County into an exciting new future."

"What CollegeTown will provide is a sense of community where residents and students will feel safe and comfortable and have access to housing, services and community activities," said Joe Felz, Fullerton's city manager.

By: Valerie Orleans, 657-278-4540

Tags:  CommunityEvents