Providing more campus housing, student-friendly retail and possibly a way to combat late-night munchies, the Triangle Retail Project has for months looked like the trifecta of student-life proposals. Now, after a seemingly never-ending run-up, the proposal is becoming more of a reality. Project plans were recently approved by the Williamsburg City Council, following months of delay. Now that these initial hurdles have been cleared, we hope the College of William and Mary will move promptly to break ground and incorporate student input in order to capitalize on this exciting opportunity.
The road to this point has been bumpy, as is to be expected with any major building project. The proposal has experienced unwarranted delays, and it was tabled by the city council at least one too many times. This is not the reaction we would have wished for, or even expected. There is no reason the idea should not have been met with the utmost enthusiasm. It solves one of the problems the city has been pushing the College to address for the last several years — a lack of on-campus housing — while also encouraging local business development. Instead, although the city councilmen’s reactions were generally positive, we failed to see the sort of enthusiasm we’d hoped for in the approval process.
Now, with city approval and zoning issues out of the way, the Real Estate Foundation can finally start focusing on specifics, including exactly what its “student-friendly retail” will entail. In this, they should look to fill the holes in what options are currently available to students — by which we mean late-night dining. As much as we love Wawa sub sandwiches, opening a 24-hour diner would go a long way toward providing a late-night alternative to glorified gas-station food. We could do without a coffee shop, what with Aromas and the Daily Grind already available. Even a bar would probably be equally superfluous. Short of dining, a convenience store within walking distance from campus would be welcome, to compete with the limited selection and needlessly high prices of the Student Exchange. In short, look to businesses students already want, and will assuredly support.
To do this, the Real Estate Foundation needs to make sure it encourages a two-way conversation between its planners and the student community. Last year’s survey on what retail options students would like to see in the Triangle area was a good step. To continue, the Real Estate Foundation should release those survey results, and look to continue the conversation with community forums. By building a consensus on what eventually becomes a part of the Triangle Retail area, the College can find those businesses with the best chance for long-term success.
Above all, however, we would hope that the Triangle Retail Project avoid further needless delay in its construction. It was announced in October that the College hoped to break ground this summer. We hope the College moves expediently enough to stick to that plan. We understand these things take time and require a degree of well-reasoned forethought, but to lose what momentum has already accumulated — simply due to a delayed approval process — would be a significant setback. This is a development that stands to benefit all those involved. It should remain a priority.