5 Lost Colleges & Universities of the Inner City

October 22, 2015 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Many would like to see an urban university grow up in the heart of the city. Here's five schools that got away.

1. UNF Downtown Center

Courtesy of the University of North Florida Thomas G. Carpenter Library.

The UNF Downtown Center was a branch of the University of North Florida that opened up for classes in September of 1978. UNF selected downtown's Western Union Building overlooking Hemming Park as an extension of their university for several reasons. For one, transportation was a huge issue, as no bus routes to UNF’s main campus existed on the Southside at this time. They also wanted to increase enrollment, and they valued the proximity of this location to downtown's businesses and employees.

The UNF Downtown Center was nearly 8,000 square feet, with 8 classrooms, office spaces, and library-classroom hybrids. It offered both credit and non-credit earning courses Monday through Friday from 7 AM until 10 PM. Classes were drawn from the Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and General Education university curriculum.

Enrollment for the first year stood at 1,840 students. In the years that followed, enrollment continued to climb, reaching a peak of 2,247 students in 1981. However, after 1981, a rapid decline in attendance would occur due to factors such as cutbacks in student aid and decreases in course offerings. In 1987, less than 500 students were enrolled. Struggling with rising building maintenance costs and declining enrollment, UNF decided to close their downtown campus in August 1987.

Rather than giving up, UNF tried changing their approach. That same year, UNF opened the Downtown Service Center (DSC). While the actual service center resided in the building that is known to us as the Drew Building, classes were held in various buildings across downtown, in meetings rooms or lounges. The actual center itself acted mostly for a spot for people to register, pay fees, and receive information. Unfortunately, enrollment numbers the first year were even lower than the last year of the Downtown Center in 1987, and the DSC closed in 1988. Today, the building once home to UNF's downtown campus is occupied by MOCA Jacksonville.

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