The University, Neighborhood Revitalization, and Civic Engagement: Toward Civic Engagement

This essay analyzes and syntheses key theories and concepts on neighborhood change from the literature on anchor institutions, university engagement, gentrification, neighborhood effects, Cold War, Black liberation studies, urban political economy, and city building. To deepen understanding of the Columbia University experience, we complemented the literature analysis with an examination of the New York Times and Amsterdam newspapers from 1950 to 1970. The study argues that higher education’s approach to neighborhood revitalization during the urban renewal age, as well as in the post-1990 period, produced undesirable results and failed to spawn either social transformation or build the neighborly community espoused by Lee Benson and Ira Harkavy. The essay explains the reasons why and concludes with a section on a more robust strategy higher education can pursue in the quest to bring about desirable change in the university neighborhood.