When University of Texas at Arlington President James Spaniolo and Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck begin their scheduled assignment today, helping some of the 5,300 students expected to live in university housing this fall tote their belongings during the annual move-in day, it will be different from what they have done in previous years.The educator and the mayor will work at Vandergriff Hall as part of the debut of the 20-acre College Park District, a multi-use university development that has the unique role of blending UTA's growth with the rebirth of adjacent downtown Arlington.To some, that role is controversial. But given the symbiotic relationship the university and the city have built in recent years, a benefit for both UTA's academic mission and Arlington's economic development, the pluses far outweigh the minuses.Classes are scheduled to begin Thursday for the fall semester.The new Vandergriff Hall will house about 500 students. The Lofts at College Park, contemporary apartments where some students have already moved in, is also part of the College Park District and will be home to about 100.Vandergriff Hall, named for former Arlington mayor and Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff, will have an Academic Resource Center that will offer peer mentoring, tutoring and group-study opportunities.The district also has 1,800 parking spaces in three garages that will serve students living on campus as well as downtown Arlington and the First Baptist Church-Arlington. The church and the city helped pay for construction of the garages.The 7,000-square-foot Dan Dipert University Welcome Center is another feature of the district, built with the help of businessman Dan Dipert and his wife, Linda.And the district is home to the 7,000-seat College Park Center, which opened last year. It's a special events venue that will be the site of university volleyball and basketball games, graduations and other functions, as well as concerts and other community events.Those facilities are typical for developments at universities. What makes the College Park District special is its 27,000 square feet of retail space. That's enough for about 10 businesses, and seven spaces are already leased.What kinds of businesses, you ask? Duh. It's a university campus. Food businesses, mostly.Pie Five Pizza Co., part of Pizza Inn Holdings. Coolberry Frozen Yogurt. Digg's Taco Shop, which also has a location across from Southern Methodist University in University Park. GRIP Mediterranean Grill. Pho Xpress. MAVS Sports Grill.And that's what makes some people question the College Park District. The university-related functions are great, but why should a public institution, supported by tax dollars, develop retail space that ends up competing with private developers?It's a reasonable question. In many cases, maybe even most cases, that competition would not be desirable. Better for private developers to build commercial space and compete with each other. There are better ways for public institutions to spend their money.But for the full picture you have to know the history of UTA and downtown Arlington. Not very long ago, downtown had withered away almost completely. UTA seemed content to be a comparatively small "commuter school."Spaniolo began to change things when he became UTA's president in 2004. His vision for the university included more on-campus housing and vibrant student life, both in the classroom and out. The College Park District was born out of that vision, and in the meantime UTA has been vibrantly transformed.Perhaps to no one's surprise, life has come back to downtown also. New businesses, especially restaurants, are thriving.Public money often helps support economic development. That's what has happened here, and it's working well.