Today colleges and universities are the dominant employers, real estate holders, policing agents, and educational and health care providers in major cities where they once played a less prominent role. Neighborhoods of color surrounding urban campuses are left most vulnerable to the for-profit developments of higher education, because the land is cheap and the citizens hold little political influence. This essay examines the long-standing relationship between the University of Chicago (U of C) and black communities surrounding the campus to chronicle the rise of what I call “UniverCities.” The U of C’s historic control of urban development on the South Side helps explain why higher education must be placed alongside the state and the financial sector as a key institutional catalyst shaping the growth and development of the twenty-first-century city.