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College town’ survey to seek student input

Emma Driscoll | Thursday, April 20, 2006

Student government members are gathering data for developers to help create a “College Town” tailored to the needs of Notre Dame students – specifically, getting to and finding off-campus entertainment.

“It is difficult, especially for off-campus students without a vehicle,” student body president Lizzi Shappell said.

Shappell, former student body president Dave Baron, former Senate Residence Life committee chair Mark Seiler and senior business major Brett Hummel began communicating with marketing professor Tim Gilbride last December to organize an effort to gather student feedback.

Seiler said Gilbride helped the students conduct market research to determine what Notre Dame students would want to see in neighborhood development projects. The group then met and brainstormed about what it would like to see in neighborhood development projects and what other students might want.

Several weeks ago, four focus groups were held – two in Knott Hall and two in McGlinn Hall. In each dorm, one focus group was comprised of freshmen and sophomores, and one was comprised of juniors and seniors. Ideas that surfaced in the focus groups were later presented to Gilbride and used to generate a survey that will soon be administered to students.

“No one instructed us to complete this research,” Seiler said. “Rather, we were aware that the Northeast Neighborhood Development Project was in the works, and we realized that student input would be valuable information to the University and to the private developer in regard to what students want to see in the development.”

Shappell said the Northeast Neighborhood Development Project – also referred to as College Town – will be south of campus after the closing of Juniper and will reach the Five Points intersection.

While Seiler was unsure about when ground would break on the establishment, he has heard a rumor that it could be as early next spring – but added that this is “pure hearsay.”

“[The] establishment will be there,” he said. “It’s going to become a reality whether Notre Dame students give a lot of feedback or not.”

The survey will ask various questions about such topics as preferences in restaurants, clothing stores, entertainment, specialty shops and transportation in order to see “what people have in mind,” Seiler said.

“[Our] intention is to give people an opportunity to fill the survey out,” Seiler said. “We will present it to [Executive Vice President] John Affleck-Graves, who will present it to the developer.”

All students are scheduled to receive the survey through e-mail this week, and it will be conducted through a Web-based program that immediately converts survey results into data.

“We can get an idea of how people are responding,” said Seiler, who took about 10 minutes to fill out the survey.

Shappell said the survey is “about as comprehensive as possible.”

“Something within walking distance is something the Notre Dame student body is missing, and I look forward to its implementation – even if it’s after my time here,” Shappell said.