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'Is Lowell a College Town?' City, Students Query University Community



LOWELL -- The City of Lowell's Division of Planning and Development has teamed up with UMass Lowell Prof. Clare Comm and her Marketing Tactics class to measure the economic impact of the University on the community. The city hopes to better understand what type of retail environment would encourage students to stay in the area now, and settle here after graduation.

"We hear from the retailers that the market isn't here," says Adam Baacke, the city's Chief Planner. "If we hear from the faculty and students that the retailers aren't here, we know there's some connection we're not making."

Comm's class presented its findings to Baacke last week. The student researchers concluded that Lowell ─ although named an All-American city ─ it is not a typical "college town." Despite the cultural and recreational facilities, the retail environment is not the type that appeals to students and young professionals.

Nearly 70 percent of the commuter students surveyed said they did not shop in Lowell, yet nearly 60 percent of those commuters live in the city.

While 90 percent of the faculty said Lowell had improved, they pointed to the need for more cultural activities, better parking, improved retail options and even a Krispy Kreme store.

The students thought the city should do more to inform them about services offered to budding entrepreneurs. They encouraged the city to work toward the image of being a college town and view the university population as a potential source for economic stimulus.

One group concluded, "Universities have a greater stake in their location and are less likely to pack their bags every five years like some companies might."

Baacke is now reviewing the written reports. Comm hopes that the work will be continued by graduate students at the University next year.

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