Betsy K. Mathews: College students will suffer living at Retreat
To the editor:
Over the last four months a flood of letters in the local press has addressed the wide range of negative impacts inherent in the Retreat, a 191-cottage upscale student housing development proposed for Amherst’s Cushman Village. Although it seems every imaginable defect and deficiency has been addressed, one question has yet to be considered.
Is this sort of housing good for students? The design and layout of Landmark’s product raise bright red flags in respect to students’ personal, social and financial well-being.
Landmark cottages are built around single-occupancy bedrooms, each with its own bath and minimal shared space, rental ($850 a month) is by the individual room, some Retreats are surrounded by 8-foot walls and a Landmark spokesman has asserted that the Retreat in the Cushman woods will be a gated community.
This is an expensive recipe for isolation that no college would prescribe for its students. Additionally, the Retreat plan presented in April calls for the 191 cottages to be set 12 feet apart, thereby combining density with individual isolation, a situation bound to create social, emotional and mental stress in a youthful population. This is not a healthy environment for college students.
Construction will be bad for the environment, bad for surrounding neighborhoods, bad for traffic, bad for the roadways, bad for real estate values, bad for a historic district, bad for salamanders and bad for students.
So who benefits? Clearly the state’s largest landowner will realize a tidy profit from the sale of the property and a Georgia developer hopes for a robust return on its investment. The tax benefit to Amherst, vague at present, must be considered together with the ongoing expenses that a large student housing development will impose on the town.
As a veteran teacher — 34 years at Amherst Regional High School — I am especially troubled to see students being used as pawns in a hot real estate fad, chiefly for the enrichment of those already rich.
Betsy K. Mathews