By: Alex Altman
Eugene, ORE. – The city of Eugene has been working on improving their downtown area for the past few years, and college students have something to do with that. With an increasing number of students coming to the University of Oregon as of late, a downtown area with an energetic and more lively vibe is in order. Students have quite the economic impact bringing in $5.3 million to the city of Eugene, according to suburbanstats.org. A lot of the money is being spent to renovate downtown to have newer bars, offices and housing. One of the new housing establishments that was recently built are the 13th and Olive apartments which feature free parking, a pool, clubhouse, computer lab and an entertainment room. These apartments are catered for college students and is one of the main reasons more college students are living in downtown Eugene.
“The only thing that attracted me to downtown was 13th and Olive.” Resident Kathryn Hoisington said, “If 13th and Olive wasn’t there, I probably would not be anywhere near downtown right now.” Hoisington, 19, is a student at the University of Oregon and a resident of the 13th and Olive apartments. She wakes up every weekday at 8:30am to get ready for class. Most students who live over half a mile from campus either drive or ride their bike to class, but not Hoisington. With 13th and Olive conveniently located right next to the bus stop, Hoisington takes the five minute EMX to the Lillis building on campus. After her classes she’ll take the bus back downtown and grab a bite to eat at Pita Pit (located one block from 13th and Olive). After enjoying a pita and getting some homework done, she’ll often make the trek out of downtown to go to the Safeway located on 18th and Pearl. She feels like Safeway has better deals and is cheaper than other grocery stores that are in the downtown area. After returning home, Hoisington will then take the EMX again to Matthew Knight Arena where she works her evening shift as a women’s basketball manager. After a long day of work, she’ll take the EMX to return home to 13thand Olive and to go to bed.
Hoisington says living in downtown Eugene has been great for her, “I am pretty happy living downtown, and I plan on living here again next year.” Hoisington said, “13th and Olive is all students, and the atmosphere here is amazing.” The 13th and Olive apartments are a little over a mile from campus, which could be a concern for many students, but Hoisington feels differntly, “The distance from school does not really bother me as long as I have a way to get there.” Hoisington said, “It does not even seem that far since the Eugene bus station is right next to my apartment.”
According to University of Oregon police reports, downtown Eugene has been known for being a little sketchy at night with lots of homeless people and a higher crime rate than the campus area. Hoisington took note to this, but is still content with her living situation, “Downtown can be a little sketchy, especially at night. I feel like the areas closer to campus are cleaner and safer.” Hoisington said, “I would rather live closer to campus, but the apartment complex I live in is a lot nicer than others closer to campus.” The 13th and Olive apartments have started to disperse college students into downtown Eugene; thus, giving students an entire different living experience than those who live on campus.
Another group of people affected by rapid growth of students coming to downtown are the business’s located in downtown Eugene. Evan Cranor, 24, works full-time at the Willamette Street Market. While he says the increase in students are good for business, he also took note to the downside of more people in the area, “There’s always the riff-raff, more people means a little bit more riff-raff.” Cranor says, “More homeless guys begging for change.” More homeless people downtown may result from the recent break-ups of occupy Eugene. Downtown Eugene is where more and more homeless people are flocking to.
Chicago native Rebecca Welton, 37, moved to Eugene 12 years ago. She currently works at Kitsch-22, a clothing store on 10th and Willamette where they sell vintage clothes and costumes. She has noticed a recent growth in the amount of college students in downtown Eugene and she feels that it is good for business and good for downtown as a whole. “It seems like there are more people downtown, which would be good from a business standpoint.” Welton said, “That’s what downtown needed, more people.” Many business owners in Eugene are noticing the spike in population in Eugene. In 2000, the population of Eugene, Oregon was under 140,000. Since that time, renovations and an increase in students have brought the current Eugene population to close to158,000, according to eugene-or.gov.
Another major reason students are migrating downtown is that a college recently opened in the heart of downtown. The Lane Community College (LCC) 90,000 square foot Downtown Campus is located on 101 W. 10th Ave. and opened in March 2013. The Kiva, Eugene’s downtown grocery store, is located a mere block away from LCC Downtown.
They have been a business since 1970, but they are just now noticing a large increase in college student customers. Employee Patricia Marucci has been working at The Kiva for seven years and she shared her skepticism about having more college students downtown. “I was dead set against it because it’s going right next to an assisted living housing and I just thought it was a bad idea.” Marucci said, “I thought there’d be a lot of loud rap music and a lot of loud, fast driving cars. There’s been nothing like that. It’s [been] wonderful. It’s helping business and they are all just a bunch of great kids.”
With student apartments located around the downtown campus, businesses are likely to notice the increase in student activity along with the addition of 13th and Olive.
Juliana Peterson, 21, is an employee at Pita Pit’s downtown location at 11th and Willamette. She works part time but she is also a student at the University of Oregon. Peterson says she works to help her parents pay for rent, college and food. She got hired somewhat recently, but she does notice an increase in college students downtown.
Q: Would you say more college students are better or worse for business? A: I think it's better for business. It attracts more people and usually people are pretty considerate. Q: As a 21 year old college student, how do you think downtown does catering toward college students? A: I think it's been doing pretty good. I'd say I'm pretty satisfied with it. Q: Any room for improvements? A: I wish there were more fun bars to go to. Peterson mentioned that she feels that the downtown bar scene is improving, but still not up to her standard. She also feels that the addition of the 13th and Olive apartments has benefited her business and most other business's in the surrounding area. She said many business's were skeptical at first, but after the students were integrated into the downtown environment, everyone was happy.
Brianna Lagumina has been an employee at the Sidelines bar downtown since January, 2014. Sidelines, previously John Henry’s, is a sports bar that caters to college students and has a wide variety of different games for the customers to play. Ranging from a large Jenga set, to Foosball, to beer pong, to a 25 foot shuffleboard table, a younger age group is definitely encouraged at this bar. Lagumina tells us more:
Q: I notice a lot of college students in here, in your time working here have you noticed an increase in college students coming here?
A: I have. When I first started here it was pretty slow and we never really had a grand opening so it’s kind of just from word of mouth people coming in. It was more middle-aged people hanging around downtown. I think with all the games, physically and on tv, more and more college students are hearing about it.
Q: So you’d say they [college students] are pretty much supporting the business at this point?
A: Yeah, especially during the weekends, but during the week it’s more local business’s coming in for lunch. It’s a different atmosphere than the other bars around here. Its more for interaction and not for who you are hanging out with.
Lagumina says she’s noticed more college students and less middle-aged adults hanging around, and that the business is progressing rapidly.
For more information on these downtown establishments, click below: