Craig Street expansion is both good and bad

With a staggering number of incoming first-year students to Carnegie Mellon, the university is consistently expanding its academic and student life opportunities. It comes as no surprise, then, that physical expansion to streets neighboring the core campus is next on the list. But are proposed ideas for development on the western portion of campus and onto South Craig Street too planned and inconsistent with the layered nature of the urban fabric surrounding our Oakland campus?

A document detailing Carnegie Mellon’s master plan for development, part of Campus Design & Facilities Development, describes the university’s intent to “improve connections to [the] Craig Street retail area” as part of an effort to link Carnegie Mellon to local and regional economic development. Current plans are in the works to expand the Collaborative Innovation Center along Forbes Avenue, and Carnegie Mellon is moving into many buildings that open up along Craig or tangential streets, where the Quality of Life Technology Center, the Software Engineering Institute, and the nearby Mellon Institute are. A new hotel is also being developed for the site of the old gas station past the Junction Hollow Bridge, representing an increasing flow of visitors to the university and its surrounding areas, just as South Craig development represents the university’s expansion into the more densely urban areas of the city.

There have also been rumors of the university itching to turn South Craig into the Oakland version of Cambridge’s Harvard Square (the retail district near Harvard University), complete with burgundy-and-white signs denoting Carnegie Mellon’s branding and a greater percentage of the local buildings being owned by or affiliated with the school.

While we’re very in favor of expansion and support President Cohon’s vision for it (much of which is outlined in the aforementioned master plan), we believe that the community will benefit more from an urban context that’s allowed to grow naturally; not necessarily affiliated with the university but certainly feeding into and off of it. Instead of re-branding South Craig as an organized off-shoot of the core campus, we should allow it to grow as a spot for both leisure and work for Carnegie Mellon students, faculty, and staff.