Emporia seeks to make town college-friendly
Emporia Main Street is endeavoring to draw business to Emporia in order to make the town more appealing to college students.
The city of Emporia is working to introduce a new student-oriented district, much like Aggieville in Manhattan or Mass Street in Lawrence, called the “Black and Gold District.”
“There’s not that much going on, but there’s a lot of smaller town stuff going on,” said Shelby Dains, freshmen elementary education major. “It’s more homey.”
Casey Woods, executive director of Emporia Main Street, said the proposal is a subset of an overall plan to improve the city of Emporia.
“We have a community-initiated development plan, and that plan breaks down the downtown into several different areas… The Black and Gold area – that two to three block area – is designated as an area where we would try and recruit student centric business and try and create student housing alternatives,” Woods said.
He also said that the other subsets of the plan include the Art and Soul District, which would include the Granada Theatre, the Arts Council and the churches across the street; the Cornerstone Area, which is the founding area of Emporia at 6th and Commercial Streets, which would contain more traditional businesses and the Courthouse Corridor, which would be associated with the Lyon County Courthouse to the marketplace, which serves as an entrepreneurial startup area.
These changes have been planned since 2005 and have reached the stage where they can finally be implemented. The process will not necessarily be one that ends. In order to understand what types of businesses would be most beneficial to both the campus and the town, Emporia Main Street has asked students to fill out surveys to see what they desire in the community.
“Emporia is a smaller community. We have a market trade area population of about 54,000 people, and sometimes we get requests for business types that require at least 100,000 people in your market trade area,” Woods said. “I know Target is one that pops up on a consistent basis. We’re just much too small to support a business like that.”
While Emporia is small, many college students express satisfaction with Emporia.
“There’s plenty of things to do – bowling on Friday nights, the zoo and the waterfall,” said Crystal Doolittle, freshman elementary education major.
However, there is always room for improvement.
“I would add more restaurants like Chipotle to eat that are cheap,” Dains said.