From her home on South 27th Street, Alicia Bradley overlooks Union Elementary School and Lindenwood University-Belleville.
And from his home and barber shop on West Main Street, Bob Kaiser watches throngs of Lindenwood students walk by each day.
Bradley and Kaiser are just two of area residents with compliments, concerns and complaints about the invasion of Lindenwood students who have moved into homes and apartments in the neighborhoods around the university at 2600 W. Main St. In November, the City Council voted 11-5 to OK Lindenwood’s student housing plan for over 50 houses and apartment buildings. As part of the housing plan, the city required Lindenwood to host a town hall meeting with residents and that meeting will be on June 8 at Union Elementary School.
So how has life fared for residents since last fall?
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“We welcome the diversity and the growth,” Bradley said.
“It is a blessing to see the young people and see them prosper, it just concerns us that we want to make sure they understand the courtesy part and the safety part for our community and for all of us to respect each other.”
We are not against Lindenwood. We are asking the administration to treat our neighborhood as it is valuable, just like their students and their staff. We valued them when they came, we want them to value us.
Alicia Bradley, who lives near Lindenwood University-Belleville
One of her concerns is that Lindenwood students walk across the Union Elementary School campus adjacent to the college during school hours despite signs warning them not to do that. Indeed, while she spoke to a BND reporter, a young man walked through the Union School campus to take a short cut toward Lindenwood on a recent school day. Bradley said after the signs were posted, the trespassing dropped.
“We are not against Lindenwood,” Bradley said. “We are asking the administration to treat our neighborhood as it is valuable, just like their students and their staff. We valued them when they came, we want them to value us.”
Kaiser, who has operated Bob’s Barber Shop at 2117 W. Main St. for 49 years, acknowledges the students will not always act perfectly but he appreciates their presence.
“I think they’re good for the neighborhood,” Kaiser said. “I have not had any trouble at all.”
I think they’re good for the neighborhood. I have not had any trouble at all.
Bob Kaiser, who owns a barber shop and lives near Lindenwood University-Belleville
Also, he said the university, which owns homes on both sides of Kaiser’s shop, maintains its property better than some of the previous owners. “How can you complain about what they’ve done?”
“Our staff is still committed in the same way to being good neighbors,” said Lindenwood University-Belleville President Brett Barger.
Barger noted that if issues arise, school leaders will address the matter and follow all city codes.
But Dianne Rogge, who lives in the 2000 block of West A Street in a home next to Lindenwood students, believes the school has not been “a good neighbor” as promised.
“We were told that (the Lindenwood) administration wants to be good neighbors but actions speak louder than words,” Rogge recently told the City Council.
Our staff is still committed in the same way to being good neighbors.
Lindenwood University-Belleville President Brett Barger
Rogge, who lives with Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner, said students have had late-night parties, have been drinking on college-owned property even though it is a “dry” campus, have piled trash into a shed and burned bonfires on two days that weather forecasters said it was too windy for fires. Also, she told the City Council that Lindenwood employees won’t return her phone calls.
“These kids are getting by with anything they want,” she said.
Buettner says he supports the school’s mission but he’s upset with the city’s response to the issues raised by Rogge.
“Myself and a lot of the residents on my street are getting tired of it,” he said in a recent City Council meeting. “I want it addressed by this administration.
“I think we need to start putting a little pressure and get these kids in line.”
Mayor Mark Eckert, in an interview, acknowledged there will be problems with students but that school security and faculty will enforce school policy and that city officials will enforce laws and ordinances if called upon.
“At some point you got a take a deep breath and just let them have a chance to do what’s right and get a few of these things under control,” Eckert said. “I think they truly are.”
“We had numerous properties that Lindenwood has bought that were some real eyesores and some real challenges to the overall neighborhood,” Eckert said. “People have quickly forgotten what was there before this university started to reinvest.
“I am so appreciative of that university being in Belleville and what they’ve done for that neighborhood,” he said.
“And property values, I’ll dispute with anyone, are going up, up and up because of all their reinvestment.”
I think we need to start putting a little pressure and get these kids in line.
Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner
Barger asked Belleville residents to keep in mind the volunteer work that Lindenwood students perform in the community.
“These are student who are absolutely civic minded,” he said. “These are very good young people doing very good things.”
He said students will make mistakes but “the frequency of mistakes is not a common occurrence.”
The university has the capacity to house more than 1,000 students in dorms, apartments and homes. Barger said the students hail from 42 countries and 39 states.
Kirk Weber, who lives on South 27th Street near Lindenwood students, thinks it time to take a hard look at Lindenwood’s growth.
“They keep talking about their tremendous growth, which is great, we welcome that,” he said.
“But maybe they need to slow down with their growth. They need to work with the city and with the residents to say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do: We’re going to have a few hundred students coming in your neighborhood. What do you want us to do?’”
“They’ve done absolutely none of that,” Weber said. “They’re looking at their bank account and adding more zeros as they go.”
We have a great neighborhood here and I just feel the college kids complement it.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Jane Pusa
Bradley said the city and Lindenwood should have established “a neighborhood plan” to follow the city’s comprehensive plan and appointed a community liaison when the university began buying homes and apartments.
“They never reached out to us,” Bradley said.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Jane Pusa, who lives near Buettner on West A Street, praised the Lindenwood expansion as well as the volunteer work done by Lindenwood students.
“We have a great neighborhood here and I just feel the college kids complement it,” Pusa said.
Lindenwood maintains it properties “meticulously,” said Pusa, who was appointed to represent Ward 2 on the City Council following the Nov. 30 death of Janet Schmidt.
Pusa has lived her entire life in her home on West A Street. “I think people should come and look at this and see what our neighborhood looks like and make their own decision.
“People continually come up to me, no matter wherever I go and say, ‘Thank you for supporting Lindenwood. We love the school.’”
Several residents say a lot of the quality of life issues they encounter would be solved if they saw more patrols by the campus security.
Weber said he has seen a Lindenwood pickup truck twice and a golf cart once since the City Council’s vote in November on Lindenwood’s request for student housing permits.
“They promised us at that meeting, ‘We have security, we are patrolling,’” said Weber, who has been home since late November on leave of absence after he had surgery.
Bradley added, “We don’t even see the security ride down our block anymore.”
“We can call the security number, I can tell you now I don’t get a call back.”
Lindenwood plans to end the Cops for Credit program later this year and transition to a security force of all Lindenwood employees. The goal is to staff two Lindenwood security officers around the clock, President Brett Barger reports.
Barger reports that the security force includes metro-east police officers who participate in the Cops for Credit program which allows police officers to earn college credit in exchange for working security at the school.
He said these officers can use personal cars and that area residents might not realize that. “They do patrol,” he said.
Also, he said the school plans to end the Cops for Credit program later this year and transition to a security force of all Lindenwood employees. The goal is to staff two Lindenwood security officers around the clock, he said.
Eckert said Police Chief Bill Clay reports that his officers respond to fewer calls to the Lindenwood area today compared to the time before Lindenwood bought homes and apartment buildings in the neighborhoods near the West Main Street campus.
Residents have complained about the places Lindenwood students park their cars and the gravel parking lots installed by the college.
When the City Council approved the special-use permits for Lindenwood students to live in homes and apartments near campus, the aldermen required Lindenwood to submit a parking plan, which was sent to the city earlier this year.
Students who live in neighborhoods near the West Main Street campus will be required to buy residential parking permits and to park in his or her assigned space.
Lindenwood will pave the parking lots at the corner of West A and North 21st streets, behind 2415 W. Main St. and at 210 S. 29th St.
Lindenwood’s parking plan will go into effect for the upcoming school year, Barger said.
Lindenwood will pave the parking lots at the corner of West A and North 21st streets, behind 2415 W. Main St. and at 210 S. 29th St. Also, the driveway at 273 S. 27th St. will be paved and the front yard will be landscaped, Barger said.
Weber said it was frustrating to see the delay on the parking lots because the weather over the winter and spring has not been severe.
“We’re going on six months past that date and virtually none of it has been done,” Weber said.
Lights and sprinklers
Lindenwood homes have outdoor security lights that some residents say are directed unnecessarily onto their property.
The residents would like Lindenwood to redirect the lights onto Lindenwood properties.
But Barger said these lights will not be adjusted. He noted that the lights are “completely within code.”
“We got word from several City Council members that said, ‘Please do not change them, they’re within code, they are not in any way harming any neighbor, and that the safety of our students was critical,’” he said.
Residents also have complained about Lindenwood’s new football and soccer stadium lights remaining on at night when there was not a game in progress.
Bradley said the stadium lights shine over her home on South 27th Street.
“Sometimes those lights are on all through the night, so we had to invest in blackout curtains to get some of our normalcy back and enjoy our own home,” Bradley said.
Aldermen required the city’s fire and housing departments to conduct annual inspections at homes owned by Lindenwood. Fire Chief Tom Pour said the international fire code requires Lindenwood homes to have fire-suppression sprinkler systems and he said the fire and housing departments are enforcing this code. Pour said Lindenwood has two years to complete this work. When colleges in Illinois were required to put sprinklers in dorms, the state gave colleges two years to install the sprinklers, Pour said.
Eckert said Lindenwood has done preliminary work done on installing the sprinklers and that Pour is pleased with progress on the school’s fire-suppression plan.
Residents who live near Lindenwood went to five consecutive City Council meetings last fall with complaints about the college.
Students had been allowed to move into Lindenwood-owned properties before the school actually received special-use permits from the city. The permits were approved on Nov. 2.
After hearing the complaints registered as Lindenwood sought the special-use permits, the council required Lindenwood to host an annual town hall meeting to identify residents’ concerns “well before” the fall semester begins.
The first such meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8 in the Union Elementary School cafeteria at 20 S. 27th St.
Some residents wanted the university to hold the meeting before spring semester classes ended so students could attend but Barger said his staff needed to first focus on getting the students through graduation and that the staff needed to wait until after classes ended.
Want to go?
- What: Lindenwood University-Belleville will host a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8.
- Where: Union Elementary School cafeteria at 20 S. 27th St.
- Background: The Belleville City Council in November required Lindenwood to host an annual, end-of-school town hall meeting to identify residents’ concerns “well before” the fall semester begins.