The Dark Side of Rowan’s Rapid Growth

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Submitted by Delia Baer, Rowan University student

Glassboro has always made me think about Thanksgiving.

I think about the leaves falling, covering the stepping stone pathway leading up to the back porch of the house on Holly Street. I think about kids running through the yard as families walk into the house and greet each other. The homes smell of corn and turkey, and greetings are exchanged. Everyone makes their way to the basement where to the right is a small living area where Thanksgiving football is being shown, and to the left are several tables set for each family and buffet style tables line the wall. The parents stand surrounding the bar while the kids play with a pile of trucks, Barbies, and Lego.

Thanksgiving at my Great Aunt and Uncle’s house is an annual tradition, and everyone from my mom’s side of the family attends. When I go to Thanksgiving every year, it’s easy to ignore the giant university that is only a street over because the college kids are home.

Glassboro was a chilly town in my memory with cute shops running up and down each street, small but homey houses, and the place I had heard plenty of stories about. But when the students return, Glassboro’s population skyrockets, and it’s only growing.

According to snjtoday.com, Rowan is the sixth fastest growing research institution in the nation. The university currently has a student population of about 19,000 students. The amount of students living on campus is something worth bragging about, but it is ultimately a problem when students have to live in Courtyard by Marriot on Rowan Boulevard. The obvious solution: build more dorms and apartments. However, this solution could possibly tear apart my family tradition. 

My great-aunt and great-uncle have been facing the threat of losing their home to who the neighborhood believes is the university. They are given constant offers of money, amounts that don’t seem like enough to make up for the decades they have spent in their house making memories. Their kids have gone through the house, they are in the perfect place to get frequent visits from their grandkids. Their house is the best center meeting point for their siblings to come for holidays.

The first floor of the house is beautifully decorated, everything to suit their tastes. The basement was done up, in order to house large family gatherings. Thousands of dollars had to have been put into their basement. The house is worth so much more than a sum of money to them, and the amounts they are offered aren’t even enough to begin with.

Their neighbors are also being offered money, some willing to take the offer but others, like my relatives, have been living there for many years and are at the age where moving isn’t a reasonable option. They were never given many details on who and why, just many offers.

Everyone on their street has been offered a similar sum of money, despite property size and value. They were originally told to expect to be out of the house by this December by the unknown buyer, but they backed out of the project for the time being. For something that has been going on for a few years, they could be back with more offers at any time.

With a constant fear of being made to leave, the last thing they would want to do is invest more money into their house. Their roof is old and in need of replacing soon, but they feel their best move is to wait. Why spend money on their roof when it may be knocked down when they are about to be practically forced out? Rumors of eminent domain have been circulating around the neighborhood, but nothing is guaranteed and very little is shared about these plans with the homeowners.

This year at Thanksgiving, I sat with my great-aunt and great-uncle in that basement, helped prepare food and dishes, and watched Thanksgiving football with my dad and brother. The kids who used to crawl on the floor with toys are now just as tall as me and planning their high school careers.

Will I be able to continue seeing these family members annually, or will this Thanksgiving tradition crumble as a result of Rowan’s growth?

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