EDITORIALp. p. In a display of determination, openness and fairness, the University of Notre Dame set out to achieve its goal: the closing of Juniper Road through campus.
When the university first raised the issue several years ago, many people were skeptical. Was Notre Dame more concerned about its own interests than those of the people who drive Juniper Road regularly or live nearby? Was the university aiming to wall itself off from South Bend at the expense of the greater community?
Today there is hardly a skeptic to be found. That is because the university, through the agency of Doug Marsh, university architect, listened carefully to every concern and addressed it. Neighborhood meetings were held. Changes were made to the original proposal. The cost to Notre Dame climbed. But the potential inconvenience to campus neighbors and those who use Juniper as a thoroughfare was whittled away.
By this spring, it was apparent that a four-lane replacement road to be built at the university’s expense would be an improvement on the current route, not an inconvenience.
As for the neighbors, their quality-of-life concerns were systematically eliminated. The last complaint we heard — from a hotelier who worried that reduced customer access would hurt his business — has been put to rest. Notre Dame will create, at its expense, a limited access driveway for his business.
And the notion that the university was interested in separating itself from South Bend?
On the contrary, the university’s long-term plan includes building a large green on the south edge of campus that will merge “town” and “gown.” As part of the Juniper closure construction, Notre Dame is building a community access road to the north side of campus, and at the same time making its post office easily available to the general public. While it now is possible to drive though campus via Juniper Road, visiting campus will be easier after the changes are made.
The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners recently added its approval to the road closure ordinance passed unanimously by the County Council. The meeting turned into something of a mutual admiration fest as county officials lauded Marsh and he responded in kind.
Besides being cause for celebration, the experience could be instructive. It is an example worth remembering of how well things can turn out when critics are engaged instead of avoided.