Students and the City: Penn team wins millennial retention competition

The winning team proposed the creation of a student housing co-op

· April 6, 2014, 2:58 pm   ·  Updated April 7, 2014, 2:19 am

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Three Penn students believe that student housing co-ops will keep millennials in Philadelphia, and they’re about to get a few minutes of Mayor Michael Nutter’s time to convince him that they’re right.

The Penn students’ proposed housing co-op — a type of housing that provides an educational and community environment for residents — was selected on Friday by city officials as the winning idea in a competition seeking to find ways to attract millennials to, and keep them in, Philadelphia. The team, which also includes a Drexel student, will have the opportunity to pitch their housing idea to Mayor Nutter , and will also receive tickets to the mayor’s box at a Philadelphia Phillies game.

Of the 16 teams that submitted entries to the competition, four teams — all containing at least one Penn student — were selected to present their ideas to a panel of judges on Friday. The panel included Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs Gloria Casarez and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Commerce Alan Greenberger.

PennDesign students Eileen Divringi , Matthew Steele, Ellie Devyatkin and Temple University student Maxwell Cohen pitched the winning idea. Using the Penn Haven Housing Co-op as an example, the team suggested implementing student housing co-ops around the city to increase access to affordable properties.

“Our proposal is to create more ties here culturally and socially,” Divringi said. Having the co-op would put the residents’ needs first, and “create a social hub for young people” filled with activities and events, she added.

Other proposed ideas touched on ways to make the city more millennial-friendly, often by tackling problems the city as a whole faces.

College junior Katie Antonsson and Temple student Jay Breslin proposed creating a music and arts initiative for SEPTA stations.

“We want to make it something exciting, make it something where [millennials] want to be rather than need to be,” Antonsson said. “Once they see that people are interested in SEPTA they’ll start taking care of it too.”

College senior Selene Romero and College sophomore Sean Hamamoto recommended providing grants and tax exemptions for start-ups around the city, to encourage millennials to “start-up to stay.”

College sophomore Joy Ting Zhang, College junior Amy Phillips, College and Wharton sophomore Nicolette Tan, Engineering junior Martin Cheong and Drexel junior Alexander Repp proposed marketing an existing program that connects volunteers with Philadelphia non-profits to millennials.

While there is no guarantee that the winning co-op proposal will come to fruition, Quinones-Sanchez offered her support to the group and invited them to present it to the rest of the council.

“What’s exciting about this is that we’re going to be able to work with the panel to help implement the project,” Steele said.

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