Students at University of Detroit Mercy are not currently connected to the Live6 community surrounding campus. My work with Live6 looked at connecting the students to the businesses in the area. If the students utilize the community businesses they can help positively impact the economics of the area.
In meeting with staff from the university I found that there is a desire to connect to the community. However, that connection lies mostly in a fragmented philanthropic focus. There does not seem to be a focused effort in helping to inform new students or currents students about the area around campus. The universities homecoming event invites neighborhood residents to join in the on the festivities. Some of the events will include group conversations and community based topics. There will also be a bike ride through part of the community. While these specific items help community integration there still needs to be an effort to have off campus homecoming based events. If the event is off campus then it forces and encourages people to know what other businesses exist and have direct interaction with residents and others. The fence surrounding campus can be intimidating for those who are not student or faculty of UDM, it is definitely not inviting.
Students want a community they can be a part of. They want to have stores, restaurants & bars they can patronize in the area. They want to live in a walk-able place but they also want to feel safe. While I will not deny there are still safety concerns in the area, I also believe it is much better than most students perceive. People have a fear of the unknown and I think that is the primary reason for most students concerns. Community and business led events that cater to students would help to draw students into the community and show that the businesses want the students as customers. In speaking with the business owners there is definitely a desire for students to shop at there stores. I also believe there are college student focused businesses missing from the area. A local bar for food and drinks after class or an art supply store for the architecture students are just a couple examples of what students are looking for.
I also met with century Partners, the organization leading the FitzForward redevelopment project in the Fitzgerald neighborhood. The organization has an honest desire to connect and help improve the community. Items like a path through the neighborhood will connect Marygrove College to UDM which will be great however my questions to them were about how will these types of features connect across the street. How do they truly integrate beyond the neighborhood borders?
The community wants to connect with the students and the students want a community they can utilize. Getting the two entities connected needs an education of whats available to the students and what the students want.