University surveys businesses hoping to renew community

Nathan Halverson

During the 1970s, the Cedar-Riverside area on the West Bank was a happening student destination.

“The place was crawling. The sidewalks were like New York City,” said Christine Benson, 1970 University graduate and owner of Depth of Field on Cedar Avenue.

Now the University is hoping to return the area to its heyday condition.

Last week University Relations finished a survey intended to help business owners better market themselves to the University community.

The survey, administered by University Community Relations, included 2,500 online surveys and several focus groups totaling approximately 60 students, faculty and staff.

But not everyone thinks it’s the University’s job to use school money to help businesses sell things to students.

“It should be up to the businesses,” said Dru Pelzel, a Carlson School of Management senior. “I don’t see why the University’s money should be spent.”

Pelzel’s friend and fellow Carlson student, Cole Ryea, disagreed.

Ryea said he thinks the University’s survey could result in a better community for students.

“Students will be more pleased with the University because of the nicer surroundings,” Ryea said. “And visiting students will be more likely to come to the University because of the nicer surroundings.”

That’s the hope of Jan Morlock, director of Community Relations.

“What (students) are paying for is they’re paying for a community relations function at this University, part of whose goal is to try and have the University facilitate the most successful communities around it,” Morlock said.

“It’s about enriching the campus experience,” she said.

Morlock said fostering the growth of communities is in the University’s best interest since the school thrives when the communities around it thrive.

“It’s intertwined,” she said.

And Morlock said it’s also in students’ interest to know where additional resources are located.

During orientation, Morlock said Middlebrook Hall residents were given maps of West Bank businesses.

Beth Fredricks, a Carlson sophomore, said she couldn’t name any stores in the Cedar-Riverside area.

But Fredericks said she would shop or eat there if she knew where to go to get what she wanted.

Rod Johnson, owner of Midwest Mountaineering, said he thought more people would frequent the area if they knew what it provided.

“I don’t think students know there’s a pharmacy on the West Bank,” he said.

And Johnson pointed to the little-known restaurant The Wienery as an undervalued shop.

If students knew they could get good, cheap food there they would be lined up out the door, he said.

Johnson said if more businesses provided student-valued services like The Wienery, it would create a dynamic that would reattract students.

Johnson said he hopes businesses use the results of the survey to cater more to students.

“It’s all I can do is hope,” he said.