Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 16
 
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
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Community Affairs Director Appelget Points Out Campus Connections to Local Businesses

Dilshanie Perera

In addressing the Borough Merchants for Princeton on Tuesday, University Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristin Appelget highlighted ways local merchants can connect to the campus in order to further activity in the present economy.

Ms. Appelget began her talk by mentioning her great-grandfather, Jack Honore, who emigrated to the United States from Oxford and opened up a barber shop in Princeton, where he cut hair for 40 years. “He did that through two world wars and the Great Depression,” she said.

Urging those present to think of the University not as a single entity, but rather as individual consumers, Ms. Appelget remarked that there are 12,000 people “on the other side of [Nassau] street.”

A 2007 independent economic impact study done by the consulting firm Appleseed elaborated on demographics pertaining to those affiliated with the University. Of the 5,500 full and part-time employees, 39 percent live in the five zip codes that include Princeton and the immediate surrounding areas. The University also accounts for 16 percent of private employment in the Borough and Township.

Having grown up in West Windsor, Ms. Appelget said that she has felt that downtown Princeton serves as the downtown for the region.

The undergraduate and graduate populations total 4,800 and 2,300 students, respectively. As of this fall, Ms. Appelget noted, undergraduate students won’t be able to bring cars to campus until their junior year as a move that will potentially alleviate some traffic in the area, as well as spurring students to make more of their purchases downtown.

Special events hosted by the University also bring in a number of potential customers, Ms. Appelget said, listing Reunions weekend, graduation, and Princeton Preview. “It’s an opportunity for them to get them to know you, and to embrace the community,” she noted of the 1,000 accepted students and 500 parents that visit campus during the preview weekends.

Communiversity brings approximately 30,000 people to the downtown, while the University Art Museum sees an annual influx of 104,000 patrons. McCarter Theatre, which is an independent entity on property owned by the University, has 180,000 people attend events each year, Ms. Appelget said.

The University spent $82 million on non-construction-related expenditures in fiscal year 2007, $29 million of which were paid to area businesses. “We want to find out how to make these big numbers bigger,” Ms. Appelget commented, encouraging merchants to connect with the Purchasing Department at the University.

As far as investment in the community, Ms. Appelget highlighted transportation initiatives like the FreeB jitney service partnership between the Borough and University, as well as the University shuttle bus system, Tiger Transit. The shuttle system sees over a million rides per year, and is available for public use. She mentioned that a shuttle route now runs from the Dinky station to Palmer Square, and that all the shuttles can be followed in real time via princeton.transloc.com.

“Most University lots are free and open to the public on evenings and weekends,” Ms. Appelget reported, though she urged merchants to check signage, as not all of them are.

Additionally, the Garden Theater, Labyrinth Books, and the PU store were mentioned as investments in the community that potentially help merchants by bringing extra foot traffic to the downtown.

Ms. Appelget acknowledged that “the economy is still very challenging, on this side of Nassau Street, as well as the other side,” but encouraged Borough merchants to think about ways to “enhance campus-community connections.”

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