On Wednesday, April 30, a community meeting was held in the gathering hall of the Lorrey I. Lokey Graduate School of Business to discuss the possibility of leasing underutilized land at Mills. The meeting was hosted by Chief of Staff and Vice President for Operations Renee Jadushlever and Campus Architect Karen Feine; approximately 50 people attended, including students, community members, faculty and staff.
The possibility of leasing this land was announced on March 12  by President DeCoudreaux. The section of land being considered for development is approximately five acres located near the Seminary Avenue exit off of Highway 580 and Highway 13. This area is currently only used for facilities and maintenance services. The Real Estate Development Task Force (REDTF), which was created by the Board of Trustees, has not yet committed to the project and is still researching its feasibility. However, the college has entered into a year-long agreement to discuss development exclusively with this particular developer, whose name has not been released. If the college decides to move forward with the project, it would be a decades-long lease and the land would not be sold. The developer hopes to use the land for commercial spaces, housing, and offices.
“We’re 162 years old and
we want to be 362
During the community meeting, many attendees raised concerns about the project and its potential impact on Mills and the surrounding community. Some questioned whether having businesses close to Mills would increase crime on and around campus. However, Jadushlever believes that the project would actually improve the safety of the area.
“There would be more eyes on the street,” Jadushlever said.
Jadushlever continued to explain that there would be an increase in streetlights and security cameras, as well as a secure barrier between the area and the campus, though she did not specify what kind of barrier this would be.
Another major issue raised was the potential effect on wildlife at Mills. Feine stated that the college and the developer would take the environment and natural habitats into consideration if the project were to continue.
“We would be very mindful about wilderness,” Feine said. “That’s what we love about Mills.”
Many attendees were also concerned with how this project could impact the surrounding community outside of Mills, particularly because the majority of nearby residents are low-income. Jadushlever stated that the developer would take the community into account, as would the REDTF, during their research. Additionally, if the project were to continue, the college would have to find a new location for facilities, which could affect parking lots and other areas.
Jadushlever also addressed another question that has been prevalent amongst the community recently–whether this will lead to the selling of the campus bit by bit. She stated that the college will not be selling the section of land; however, she also noted that the physical form of the college could change in the decades to come, whether it becomes a primarily international-based school or perhaps online-based. Ultimately, she said, Mills is here to stay.
“We’re 162 years old and we want to be 362 years old,” Jadushlever said.
At the close of the meeting, Jadushlever asked the community what they would like to see in the area. Some of the suggestions included grocery stores, pharmacies and/or doctors’ offices, cafes and restaurants, a laundromat, daycare, and spaces for local business owners or student enterprises.
Senior Jessica Knapp felt more informed about the project after attending the meeting, though she still has some reservations.
“There are a lot of potential negative impacts the project could have, especially on socioeconomically disadvantaged families in the community, but there are positive ones as well,” Knapp said. “Gentrification is always a possibility because of the 580 divide, which is right where the site is located. I think we have to be conscious, but there is a lot of potential.”
Knapp and first-year Eileen Saltman recently completed a mapping project related to socioeconomic factors in Oakland, which they plan to share with Jadushlever to aid in the research of the land development. Both Knapp and Saltman felt that there needs to be more transparency and communication involving the students as well as more community involvement with the project.
The earliest this project would be completed is 2017. According to Jadushlever, the developer will be providing updates every step of the way, and all partners must be approved by Mills. The college plans to update the community regularly as well. Renee Jadushlever can be reached at email@example.com.
This article appeared in The Campanil‘s special Commencement issue which came out on Tuesday, May 6. For more graduation-related posts, check out The Campanil‘s designated 2014 Commencement webpage here  or click on the “Commencement” link in the upper right hand corner of the header.