President's ColumnSeptember 2001: Vol. 80, No. 4

In town-gown relationships, we're No. 1!

Michael F. Adams
I've worked in several university settings and talked with dozens of administrators from other college towns and cities, so I think I can say with certainty that the relationship between the University of Georgia and Athens/Clarke County may be the best town-gown relationship in America.

I have been at UGA for four years now and the relationship between the University and the community seems to get better each year. Much of the credit for that goes to Mayor Doc Eldridge, a 1976 graduate of UGA, and members of the Athens/Clarke County Commission, who recognize that a good relationship is critical to both the University and our community.

That's not to say there aren't occasional conflicts; not all of my conversations with the mayor are as smooth as we would like them to be. But our underlying relationship, the foundation for those conversations, is strong and positive, enabling us to address areas of conflict with the common goal of reconciling them for mutual benefit. I'd like to share with you several examples of the positive relationship between UGA and the community:

Oconee River Greenway Project: One of the things that makes Athens a special place is its beautiful setting. Equally important is the appreciation those of us who live here have for that setting and our desire to preserve it as well as we can. In cooperation with the local government, the University is committed to preserving a swath of greenspace that begins south of campus at the Oconee River, travels through the heart of campus, and ends at Sandy Creek Park. We share with the Athens community a sense that such open spaces are vitally important to the quality of life in this community; I am certain that such open spaces are conducive to creating the kind of academic community our students and faculty desire and deserve.

Baxter Street Esplanade: There are a number of places where the University and the community are juxtaposed. Along Broad Street, North Campus spills into downtown, fueling the vibrance there and serving as a reminder of the intertwined histories of this University and the community. In other places, those juxtapositions can be a bit more troubling. Baxter Street, as it climbs past our high-rise dormitories, was one of those places. Working with the city, we have transformed a daunting stretch of roadway into a place where pedestrians can walk in safety and where drivers now have a better sense of where students will be crossing the street. Similar improvements along Jackson Street, Lumpkin, and now Baldwin speak to the common goals of the community and the University.

College Station Gateway: The south end of campus grows busier and busier each year, as more and more people use the UGA Visitors Center as a starting point for campus excursions and more and more traffic flows through campus daily. The city and the Georgia Department of Transportation have worked with us to create better traffic flows, safer pedestrian access, and a true gateway to our campus.

Athens Housing Authority property purchase: We recently reached agreement with the Athens Housing Authority on an offer to purchase nearly five acres of land at the intersection of Baxter and Newton streets. The Housing Authority has been renovating and improving homes in this area, so the 28 units on this parcel of land are unoccupied. Our purchase of this property, pending approval by the Regents and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will allow us to develop further the core campus with residential and student-use facilities near the new Student Learning Center, Tate Center, and bookstore. For the housing authority, it provides funding for youth activities and innovative housing opportunities.

Fire station on College Station Road: We also reached an agreement that allowed Athens/Clarke County to build a new fire station on University property, signing a long-term lease for $1 per year. The city was able to build the fire station without having to purchase the land, and the University got improved fire protection and accident-response times.

Bicentennial of Athens/Clarke County: We have participated in this year-long celebration by dedicating two historical markers on campus. The first (on the current site of Brumby Hall) commemorates the Jeruel Academy, which was founded in 1881 and educated African-American students in the Athens area in an era when the public schools were not open to them. The second marker details the U.S. Navy's pre-flight academy, where young pilots-to-be took their first steps toward flight in the early days of World War II.

What all of these examples demonstrate—and I could name many more—is how neighbors live together. Neighbors help each other. Neighbors talk to each other. Neighbors work together to solve problems. Neighbors celebrate successes together. I am proud of the effort we have made to be a good neighbor in this community.

We've now had 200 years together, and I'm happy to say that the future looks even brighter.

Michael F. Adams

Back to Top . Up Front . Features . Alumni Profiles . Class Notes . Back to Current Issue