University could do more for summer businesses

When summer vacation started in mid-May, most students left campus for home, internships or jobs. The campustown they left behind became a relative ghost town. With the sharp decline of the student population, businesses reduce their hours while some go as far as closing for the summer, only to reopen in August for the fall semester.

Between Wright and Sixth Streets on Green Street on Saturday, bands performed to onlookers at the Champaign Center Partnership’s Summer Stage. The event, which only occupied a single block, was to bring more business and profits to campustown, specifically for those stores, restaurants and bars on Green Street.

To help the establishments that sell liquor, attendees could have open alcohol on the block, but only if they purchased it from Zorba’s Restaurant, Murphy’s Pub or Brother’s Bar and Grill. Because the festival was held on such a limited space in campustown, it excluded several other businesses and bars from enjoying its benefits.

Summer Stage presents the opportunity to bring some of the consumer base of downtown to campustown during the summer months, when permanent Champaign residents can enjoy Green Street businesses without feeling crowded by the heavy student population of the academic year. These new consumers provide a way to keep business alive and vibrant while the number of students dwindles from May to August.

These businesses are a major part of what gives the University its culture. Does that make the University responsible for their survival during the summer?

To a degree, yes. Without the help of the University’s partnership with Champaign under the direction of Chancellor Michael Aiken during the Campustown 2000 project, Green Street would not have been built up the way it is today. Essentially, the culture created by the businesses is the child of the University.

As such, campustown’s summer economic slowdown could be remedied by simply trying to maintain a student population during the summer that is greater than years past.

Doing so would require the University to maintain a greater number of students on campus over the summer. Generally, they leave campus to return to their families at home, minimum-wage jobs or internships around the country.

But if the University focused its energy on capitalizing on the talents and intelligence of the students here by providing them with more research or campus jobs, students, the University and campustown’s business would all benefit. Summer school already keeps a number of students around throughout the break, but there could be even more here.

We laude the Champaign Center Partnership’s attempt at providing additional entertainment and musical diversity to Champaign-Urbana and opening up campustown to the permanent residents of the area, and we look forward to the event in the future. But we also hope it truly benefits the whole instead of a very select few.