Keep Dinkytown small businesses alive

When Doran Companies announced their purchase of the Dinkydome and their plans to build a 13-story apartment complex, Dinkytown businesses became concerned that the development could lead to a watering down in the flavor of independence and entrepreneurship for which the neighborhood is currently known. As so many aspects of the University and our college experience become corporatized, we hope Dinkytown is able to maintain its flair and character through the development of Sydney Hall. Skott Johnson, owner of Autographics Printing in Dinkytown and president of the Dinkytown Business Association, said a number of businesses in the area are alumni-owned, like his own, and when he started as a student in 1973, âÄúa lot of people lived nearby and just walked to work.âÄù The Minnesota Daily reported almost a third of Dinkytown restaurants are now franchises. Dinkytown is an area where young entrepreneurs can afford to start businesses and gain mentorship from neighboring business owners. Although the focus of the area has shifted from being service-oriented during JohnsonâÄôs days as a student to being more entertainment-based these days, Dinkytown remains the home to many students and other members of the University community. Construction on Sydney Hall is expected to finish in summer 2010, and the ground floor will remain as retail shops. Although current tenants of the Dinkydome will be allowed to stay, according to Doran owner Kelly Doran, current tenants might not be able to afford the rent in the new space. Johnson said because Dinkytown area has a history of independently owned businesses and mostly older buildings, the rent is typically lower than Sydney Hall will probably charge. Having more students living right in the Dinkytown area could lead to increased business in the area, but Doran Companies should ensure their new retail tenants add to or help maintain the small-business spirit of the Dinkytown neighborhood. According to Johnson, some current tenants of the Dinkydome arenâÄôt happy with the treatment theyâÄôve received thus far. Dinkytown is still the home of many local businesses and employees, and Doran Companies should try their best to be a good neighbor as they move in.