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Penn's purchase of 200 rental units could be a big boost for the neighborhoods in University City. Penn's purchase of 36 University City buildings containing 200 rental units marks one of the University's largest real estate deals in recent years, though the parties involved have refused to disclose the terms. More important than the size of the purchase, the deal to buy Campus Associates fits perfectly into the University's ultimate goal of stabilizing and improving the neighborhoods surrounding campus. For years, community members have rightfully complained about a transient student population that is messy and loud. Though this description by no means extends to all students, we recognize that a strong neighborhood must contain owner-residents with strong ties to the community. Though Penn's decision to buy such a large chunk of area property and use part of it to attract faculty and staff to University City was wise, we hope that this does not become a trend that deprives students of the opportunity to live off campus. One of the University's strongest draws is that it is a city school, and a major part of that stems from being able to live in a community where you are exposed to people who are not college students. One worrisome aspect of this deal is that the public was not made aware of it in July, when Penn actually bought the houses. University officials have been very conscious over the past few years of how they are perceived -- and as a result have tread carefully and tried to avoid the popular perception that Penn only makes West Philadelphia decisions unilaterally. As a result, it's all the more puzzling why officials didn't come forward, announce their purchase and explain its intended effects. Given the contentious history of Penn buying land, demolishing the buildings on it and then rebuilding, it seems that much more important for Penn to let students and community members in on major property purchases after they occur. Fortunately, in this case the effects of the purchase appear to be in line with many of the University's other large recent initiatives in the community -- well-guided and with lots of potential for University City.

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