2,700 students. The thought of that number supporting a cause would make any campus activist drool with envy. But that's the number of students the Badger Herald is reporting have joined a facebook group in protest of a proposed apartment complex on Mifflin St.
Joining a facebook event is easier than going to a Plan Commission meeting, which is what the 2,700 students are supposedly pledging to do. But if even five percent of those attend it will represent a significant mobilization, and the pressure of the opposition will be duly noted by committee members.
Although much of the dialogue over the proposed development will center on the historical significance of Mifflin St. in the UW community, the more important long-term debate will focus on where the city wants its students to live. Many policymakers and city activists would prefer that old houses, like those on Mifflin St and in the Mansion Hill neighborhood, be occupied by single families, who are more likely to take care of the houses and take an interest in the development of the neighborhood. In this scenario, more students would be relegated to high-rises or other student-specific housing.
The proposed apartment complex falls somewhere in between the family vs. students dichotomy. The developer says it is meant to cater to young professionals and families. On the surface, this is the type of mixed-use neighborhood that others in city government, who are not so adamant about putting students in specific areas, are encouraging. However, if the development truly does attract many families, Mifflin St can expect to experience some cultural shifts in the coming decade.