After two years of work on a retail shopping center at Cal State Northridge's North Campus, school administrators last week scrapped the project. It was the right thing to do. So is the proposal to delay development of North Campus until the school can prepare a master plan for the 65-acre property, which was deeded to CSUN 30 years ago for educational uses. That's how the land should be used--to develop facilities where private businesses can benefit from CSUN's talented students and faculty and, in turn, bring real-world experience and expertise to academic lessons.
The Times understands the need for CSUN to find creative ways of paying for itself at a time when public institutions everywhere are asked to do more with less. But the MarketCenter project clearly was the wrong way to do it. Neighboring residents and merchants hated the project because they feared the traffic, noise and competition it would bring. Regardless of their fears, though, the project would have generated considerable cash for the university--about $800,000 in lease payments alone. In response to complaints, CSUN scaled the project down. But a smaller project meant smaller annual revenues, and that's what finally led CSU Chancellor Barry Munitz to ask CSUN President Blenda J. Wilson to kill the project. Why use school property to build a shopping center if the returns weren't as hefty? Good question. Wilson promptly withdrew the proposal from consideration by the CSU Board of Trustees.