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Eddy Street Commons, not quite enough

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I was both surprised and relieved to see Eddy Street back open last Thursday as I biked back to my house on the south side of campus. As a student returning from abroad last semester, I missed almost all of the rumors and conjecture concerning what would be going into the new Eddy Street Commons development, and was shocked to see how much progress had been made since I had left.

While there is still much to go, with the buildings still appearing as if they came straight out of “The Truman Show,” I am disappointed at what I saw: a Follett bookstore, a Five Guys, a Chipotle and a large full service hotel in the works. It isn’t that I don’t like any of these places by themselves, or won’t be a patron in the future, it just seems that Kite Reality, and the oversight team from Notre Dame, missed a golden opportunity to make a truly memorable and unique contribution to the students.

We all love Chipotle. I know that. It opens in three weeks, and the line will undoubtedly be out the door and down the street. However, it seems that our college experience would be made richer had Kite Reality really tried to bring in some local, independent flavor: a place to stop in late at night with interesting characters servicing the counter and a place to create some real tradition. Think the type of restaurants Adam Richman, the “Man Vs. Food” host goes for: The friendly, fun kind where they stick your picture on the wall if you can eat a 14-pound hamburger. None of us will ever consider the Five Guys at Eddy Street Commons a defining eatery in our college career, and it will not be the first place we hit up when we come back for football games.

For those who claim these types of places don’t exist in South Bend, look harder. On the east side of campus alone is Between the Buns, the Original Pancake House (which, admittedly, is a chain), Nick’s Patio and the hidden off-campus gem, Julio’s (open till four on weekends). Moving south on 23 into downtown is Lula’s, the only independent coffee shop anywhere near campus; Parisi’s, for those upscale dates; and Rocco’s, the godfather of Notre Dame restaurants. In fact, last Saturday night as I was standing out on my front porch, a car full of Notre Dame fans coming from the game asked me out of their window where that “world famous pizza joint around here.” Yeah, they weren’t looking for Chipotle.

Furthermore, the south neighborhood of students has suffered a blow with brand new apartments going up that are expensive, and neither marketed nor created for undergraduate students. The east neighborhood of campus has benefited from serious development of student housing (Irish Row, Wexford Place, Stadium Club, etc.) through a series of prices ranges, in close proximity to each other. Not only has this made conditions safer, but it also has helped local businesses and minimized some town-gown problems by consolidating loud, intoxicated students to common areas (around Vaness and Willis Streets).

The south neighborhood doesn’t have any of these advantages. Most students live in a hodgepodge of houses and apartments stretching for a number of blocks south of campus sprayed among regular neighborhood folks and boarded up houses. There is not a large enough concentration in any given point either to support local business, or to develop a sort of student area where students would be less disturbing to each other than to neighbors not pleased by loud music at late hours of the night, and kids stumbling around the front yard.

The “Foundry,” as it is cryptically called, will not in the least provide a nucleus around which south neighborhood student housing can be centered. The number of apartments eventually available will be nothing compared to Clover Ridge or the apartments formerly known as Turtle Creek, and it all remains prohibitively expensive for an average student.

However, as far as I can tell from Kite Realty’s development plans online, there is still some open retail and restaurant space, and if we are lucky, we may still get a great little coffee shop, unique Asian restaurant or at least a place on the south side where you could get a decent sub sandwich.

Jason Coleman is a senior accounting major. He can be contacted at

[email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.