The renovation of the Gopher Campus Motor Lodge, scheduled to be complete by Nov. 1, is good for the Dinkytown/Marcy-Holmes area. However, the management should ensure that while attempting to create a safe atmosphere, the motel still retains a welcoming atmosphere for the surrounding neighborhood.
The city of Minneapolis forced the motel to shut down temporarily in February, because of repeated drug-related offenses occurring at the site. Although the motel was supposed to reopen on April 15, the motel has not been operating since February.
The owners, Larry Hopfenspirger and Dr. Elmer Salovich, a professor in the University’s orthopedic surgery department, took the shutdown seriously. The motel is going through a major renovation. The improvements will cost about $700,000 and will include new furniture, an expanded entryway and remodeled bathrooms and balconies. The motel will also become part of the Roadway Inn motel chain.
These renovations should help the area, which has recently been losing businesses because of a combination of mismanagement and reduced income. In the last few years Dinkytown has lost Burger King, Gray’s Campus Drug, Rocky Rococo and Fowl Play. The street repairs hindered traffic, which contributed to the difficulties faced by local business. Improving the Gopher Motel is a good way to attract families to the area.
The motel is situated differently than most local businesses. Its location is surrounded by residences, and there are no other businesses on the blocks immediately surrounding it. This situation means the motel must work harder at fitting in with the neighborhood than other businesses.
The vast majority of the upgrades will enhance the area and will certainly be preferable to the prior situation. However, the management also plans on building a fence around the perimeter of the motel to keep out crime. This idea should be considered carefully. A fence will not keep out anyone determined to get inside the property, but might create a negative image for the motel by barring the premises from public view.
If the decision is made to go forward with the fence, care should be taken that the fence doesn’t create a prison-like atmosphere for the motel. While selecting a fence that both looks open and also serves as a deterrent for criminals might be difficult, it is certainly not impossible. Selecting an appropriate fence also makes good business sense, because it will be the first and last thing that possible customers will see.
The management of the Gopher motel should be commended for making a strong commitment to improving the image of the motel both literally and figuratively. Their investment will benefit the entire area by providing a place for visiting families to stay, creating jobs and making a positive space out of what was once negative. Nevertheless, in their eagerness to erase their old image of wanton crime, the management should ensure that their new image is open, not forbidding.