City, College Look at How to Draw Students Downtown
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — College students are looking for more retail variety and information about events in the downtown. They also feel pretty safe in the city and would like more recreational opportunities.
The data comes from a survey done by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts seniors Corey Brown and Meghan McMahon, who presented the information to the City Council on Tuesday night.
The project, part of a class with professor Nancy Ovitsky, was designed to find out what would draw students from the Church Street college to the city's main retail center. Councilor David Bond had met with the students in January as part of conversations about how better to tap into the college's 1,000-odd population.
Brown said 160 students responded to the survey, citing they would like more restaurants (including a bakery and health food) and more retail outlets, especially sports or discounters like TJ Maxx.
"A lot of the students, what they're looking for is for businesses to stay open longer," said Brown.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer agreed that later hours would be nice but said the city had little control over businesses opening. She wondered if retailers were doing their best to reach out to students.
Meghan McMahon and Corey Brown, seniors at MCLA, said students were interested in the city but often didn't know what was happening or available downtown.
McMahon said social media was the best way to reach students now, a situation that had changed dramatically since she'd entered college. "It used to be coupons in our mailboxes but now students just throw them away."
Students want to do things in North Adams and the area, she said, but many venues were not easily accessible, such as Greylock Bowl. Students would like to see more recreational activities, such as bowling or a skateboard park, closer to the college and have more information about events.
"I think the students would like to see a lot more marketing to those events downtown," McMahon said.
In response to a question by Councilor Alan Marden, McMahon and Brown said they had not included Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in the survey because it was a major attraction and the college was already heavily involved with the museum.
Both students and councilors agreed that the city could not be described as a "college town." Mayor Richard Alcombright said he was working with the college on coordinating sidewalk clearance during the winter and would look into more lighting around the Pitcher's Mound, which some students felt was unsafe.
He also held out some hope that the city would be able to move forward with a basic skateboard park at MoCA.
"We do see a great change from being a freshman," said McMahon. "I think we can make it better. There are other college towns much bigger than this that we could get ideas from."
Councilor Keith Bona noted that students will spend if they find something they like. He said the college clientele at his Main Street store had increased tenfold.
"I didn't think college students liked antiques but they do ... ."
In other business, the council:
• Put off a recommendation to adopt the state's anti-idling statute until it could be submitted in order form.
• Appointed Aurora Cooper, a student at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, to the Youth Commission.
• Referred to the Community Development Committee a request to change all or a section of Grimes Street to Cascade Way at the request of Cascade School Supplies.
• Read through a lengthy list of committee reports.