Amherst Residents Oppose Student Housing in Historic Cushman

Residents in North Amherst and other concerned citizens recently formed the group Save Historic Cushman to oppose the neighborhood student housing development project proposed by the Athens, Ga.-based real estate firm Landmark Properties.

“We are concerned about [a] proposed new development that would decimate our neighborhood’s unique pattern and character,” the group’s website SaveHistoricCushman.com reads. “The parcel in question is part of the largest contiguous forest land in Amherst and home to our world-famous salamander population. It is identified in Amherst’s Master Plan as a priority parcel for conservation.”

“Basically our neighborhood is not protected by zoning bylaws,” Save Historic Cushman’s president Jack Hirsch tells the Advocate. “[Fortunately] the land has been proposed to be acquired in the [2009] Open Space and Recreation Plan,” Hirsh continues, “[though the proposal was] never acted on due to it being lower priority.”

Landmark Properties owns or operates 23 student housing developments at colleges ranging from Florida State University in Tallahassee to the University of Arizona in Tucson to Penn State University in State College, Penn., according to its website. Over half its “community” properties are located at the University of Georgia, in Athens.

“Housing for college students,” reports The Wall Street Journal, “long dominated by small players willing to put up with beer pong and raucous parties, is attracting some of the biggest names in real-estate development.

“The moves are designed to help the companies better weather the next economic recession by diversifying into areas considered less sensitive to downturns. During the real-estate crash, as prices of single-family homes declined and apartment landlords reduced rent, many student-housing landlords continued to raise rent, thanks to the generosity of parents and student loan programs.”

The village of Cushman is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The parcel of land being sold is controlled by longtime local lumber company W.D. Cowls, Inc., which has been family owned since 1741.

(Originally appeared in The Valley Advocate.)

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