What makes a good college town? Is it hipster poetry readings at a local open-mic? Is it a homecoming parade that brings the entire community together? Is it rallying behind a sports team? When one thinks of a ‘college town’ one pictures Lawrence or Manhattan KS, Columbia MO, Lincoln NE, and others. Each of these cities have vibrant interactions between community and university.
Among the results of a study conducted this summer by students from Kansas State University, Missouri Western State University (MWSU) and University of Missouri that there is a desire for MWSU and Downtown Saint Joseph to form a closer connection. The Downtown Research Study was sponsored by Bottlecage Investments and the Saint Joseph Chamber of Commerce. The university and downtown are arguably two of the city’s most valuable assets. Simultaneously stimulating these important parts of the city to interact with the other is another important component to improving the quality of life for all.
Mingling the greenspaces of a suburban campus with the urban downtown culture doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes like-minded individuals, buy-in from businesses and organizations, awareness, a solid plan, a unity of vision, ease of access to transportation resources and most of all, patience.
The MWSU Student Government Association (SGA) with the help of staff and administration and local downtown businesses have developed an initiative called Third Thursday to connect the two entities. Within the first month of development over 15 downtown and Historic Frederick Avenue District businesses have provided specials and discounts to use as promotional incentives on the third Thursday of each month to encourage MWSU students, faculty, and staff to participate in the downtown experience. The incentives offered range from drink specials and discounts to free desserts and coffee.
The spirit of Third Thursday has three key components:
- Present to the students, staff and faculty of MWSU the value of Uncommon Character
- Demonstrate to the downtown and Frederick Avenue businesses the value of encouraging the university community’s patronage
- Illustrate for the city in general what a little bit of innovation and creativity can do to stimulate our culture and economy
While the Third Thursday initiative is certainly a step in the right direction, challenges remain. Chief among them from the students’ perspective, is broader access to public transportation. MWSU students ride at no cost on the city bus system, but there is no quick and simple route between the university and the Frederick Avenue corridor/downtown. From the point of view of some students the city routes run far too infrequently and cease operations too early in the evening. For change to happen on the city bus routes students must demonstrate greater demand. Only then will MWSU and Saint Joseph Transit find motivation to negotiate greater supply and access for students.
Current Third Thursday participants include: Ambience Hair Design and Nails, Café Acoustic and D&G, Club Geek, Friedrich’s Market, Gallery on 6th, Ground Round, The Lucky Tiger, Manic Snail, Mod Podge, Mokaska, Nesting Goods, Norty’s, Pronto Café, The Tiger’s Den, 1785, and Wiry Orphan Apparel.
Follow Third Thursday on Facebook @ThirdThursdayStJoe Twitter @ StJoeThirdThurs Instagram @ThirdThursdayStJoe