Eddy St. Commons
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, April 16, 2009
When the Eddy Street Commons (ESC) plan was announced, Notre Dame’s Office of Business Operations presented it as “a showcase for both Notre Dame and the City of South Bend.”
ESC promised a partnership between town and gown, and was supported by the city with tens of millions in tax increment financing. But it now seems Notre Dame has decreed for itself an out-of-state pleasure dome. To date these tenants only are announced: Chipotle, a six story Marriott, a Follett Bookstore, a Hot Box Pizza, Doc Magrogan’s, Noodle and Co, a Springhill Suites and Kildare’s. Far from a ‘showcase’ for South Bend, these merchants respectively hail from Denver, Washington D.C., Chicago, Indianapolis, Philly, Broomfield, Colorado, Washington D.C. again and Philly again.
Chain businesses typically funnel dollars out of local areas more quickly than indigenous counterparts. They arrive with developed and out-of-area supply networks and management structures, and depend less on local suppliers and services. The current proposal for ESC demonstrates lack of awareness of how local economies are sustained and little respect for the South Bend community’s contributions to ESC. Further, it is difficult to determine that the University has considered Catholic Social Doctrine and its emphasis on solidarity and subsidiarity in economic affairs.
South Bend has recently benefited from growth in locally owned businesses, from Fiddler’s Hearth and the Tire Rack, to the South Bend Chocolate Co. and Better World Books, for example. These join outstanding traditions near campus like CJs, Parisi’s, Rocco’s, Studebagels, Lula’s and many others, each well articulated within the Notre Dame-South Bend community. With these, Eddy Street could have more in common.
Notre Dame enjoys final approval of all tenants with Kite Realty, the site’s developer. The University could shorten the slack on Kite’s string and direct its retail recruiters to the local area. It could also specify that future vacancies from current tenants prefer local entrepreneurs. At another level, Notre Dame could expand its salutary programs to engage faculty with Catholic Social Doctrine to members of the University administration, so that current and future economic initiatives exhibit virtues of Catholic social thought.
Kite Realty, an out of town developer with no previous experience in South Bend, has not thus far visibly or successfully recruited local businesses. If this pattern persists, the stretch from Edison Road to Napoleon Street cannot be considered a bridge between Notre Dame and South Bend, but a stumbling block. The city deserves better, and the University could do much more.
Class of 2002