End of a South Loop era
05/09/2012 10:00 PM
Columbia College’s president officially announced this week that he’s retiring next year, after what will have been a 13-year term at the school’s helm.
Warrick Carter, the institution’s leader since 2000, has led Columbia through a period of massive change. Under his watch, the university has a massive expansion in the South Loop, doubling its footprint to take up more than 2.5 million square feet.
In a period of rapid real estate expansion in the South Loop, Columbia still managed to make a huge splash in the area. It claimed old buildings and restored them, and put them to good use.
However, its land grabs have cost the university dearly in the long run. By buying tons of property right before the real estate bubble burst, it saddled itself with a huge financial burden.
Lots of Columbia students say they think their tuition costs have ballooned out of control, and as the university searches its soul during the next few years to balance out its budget, a lot of programs could get cut or chopped. Already, some popular professors have been cut. Carter is unpopular with many students.
We think Columbia is a fantastic neighbor in the South Loop, and we love the campus town feel that the neighborhood gets at night with students milling about. One of the most important ways to create a safe city is having active streets, with people walking around at all hours of the day.
Columbia’s massive expansion has helped achieve that by not only dropping tons of students into the South Loop, but by spreading them out over the area, so that they walk back and forth.
However, we think that the real estate grabs haven’t exactly served the university well. So, we welcome the new leadership. Columbia has some hard decisions to make in its future, but a new president could guide the university from good to great.
We wish Carter well, and we’ll be watching to see what he does next in his final years. But we’re excited to see what will come, and we hope the new leader will be just as good for the South Loop.