|October 27, 1998|
Union College announces Union-Schenectady Initiative
Union College announced today (Oct. 27, 1998) the Union-Schenectady (US) Initiative, a broad-based plan to revitalize the neighborhood to the immediate west of the campus. The program includes a number of incentives for both homeowners and College employees, including scholarships, special mortgage programs, community outreach programs, and the establishment of a neighborhood association.
Union College President Roger Hull made the announcement in the presence of representatives from city and state government, private business and community leaders.
"I feel that we all individuals and institutions alike have a responsibility to contribute to the communities in which we live and operate," President Hull said. "In fulfilling our responsibility, we are committing, among other things, our greatest asset a first-rate education to the revitalization of this area of Schenectady. We believe that others -- neighborhood families, the City of Schenectady, Schenectady Municipal Housing Agency, local banks, and St. Anthony's Church will join with us, and we are eager to begin work on a true partnership for the neighborhood.
The US Initiative will also serve to enhance the College's competitive position by expanding housing options for students, faculty and staff and by beautifying the area surrounding the west border of campus. The area is defined by Seward Place, Union Street, and Nott Street.
Key elements of the Union-Schenectady Initiative include:
Scholarships covering the full cost of tuition for eligible homeowners: Union College will make available scholarship funds of up to $1 million a year to cover the full cost of tuition to children of qualified homeowners. Children who meet Union's admissions requirements and whose primary residence is within the US Initiative area will be entitled to apply for four years of scholarships. The tuition benefit will be limited to two children per family.
To be eligible, homeowners (and their children) must reside in the area for five years preceding access to the benefit, continue to reside there during the period of matriculation at the College, and maintain their property in accordance with the standards set by the to-be-established Union-Schenectady Neighborhood Association. This association, which will include a five-member review board from the College and surrounding community, will establish standards for continued enjoyment of the tuition benefit, such as exterior esthetics, trash handling, landscaping and other maintenance issues.
Acquisition of property: Union College has acquired 20 properties in the US Initiative area. These properties, following extensive renovations, will be owned and maintained by the College for use as student housing and faculty residences. All Union College properties will be maintained in accordance with US Neighborhood Association standards, and they will serve as a catalyst for further revitalization and development of the area.
The ultimate use of each property student housing, faculty or staff rental will be determined in a planning process that will include discussions with neighbors and businesses in the area. The process of acquisition and renovation is expected to take 12 to18 months, with an estimated cost of $3 to $4 million.
Home ownership: Union College employees (faculty, administrators, staff) whose primary residence is within the US Initiative area will be entitled to access the Union College Community Stabilization First Mortgage Program. The program features a number of incentives designed to encourage home ownership in the area. These include no down payment, no closing costs, exterior fašade improvement funds of up to $10,000 to be added to the mortgage amount and amortized over the life of the mortgage, payroll deduction, and a fixed interest rate two percent below local banks' no-points first mortgage rate.
Community Outreach: To create a center for the exchange of ideas, suggestions and community-focused activity, the US Initiative includes the development of the Office of Neighborhood Outreach. Staffed by Union students, staff and volunteers from the community, the Office will enhance the educational experience of children in the area by establishing a homework center and tutoring program, and by sponsoring South Avenue Park neighborhood weekend programs.
Additionally, the Office will focus its efforts on partnering with the not-for-profit community in enriching the neighborhood. Possible activities include organizing neighborhood cleanup projects and conducting community workshops on legal issues for home ownership.
Safety and esthetics: The College's plans call for the relocation of Union's Security Office to an address yet-to-be identified on Seward Place. Also, working with the Outreach Office and area neighbors, the College hopes to establish a neighborhood watch program. As part of the beautification effort, the US Initiative includes the use of banners, signage and historic lighting in the area, as well as the installation of cobblestone pavers at designated street corners and intersections to reduce the speed of area traffic.
"I am convinced that the outcome of these efforts will truly result in a win-win for Union and Schenectady. Our interests are inextricably linked when Union benefits so does the City, and when the City benefits so does Union," President Hull noted. "This initiative comes at a time when the competition among quality liberal arts colleges has never been greater. If we fail to act and ignore the issues around us, we are ultimately hurting our - and the City's - future."