Although we would prefer to believe that University Properties should cater primarily to the needs and wishes of Yale students, the businesses who inhabit University-owned spaces on Broadway obviously have different bottom lines to keep in mind. We wish them luck with endeavors such as “College Night,” which sought to tempt other local students to join Yalies in shopping along the Broadway strip. With an eye to the broader college-aged market that seems to go relatively untapped between the Yale Bookstore and Au Bon Pain, we are glad to see University Properties taking an active role in promoting their tenants’ business interests.
That said, we believe they are fighting somewhat of a losing battle. Attempts to woo students with school-specific liaisons and discounts at local stores — stores that have little to offer them in any event — seem futile. Instead, Yale and the city should encourage diversification among Broadway’s fairly homogeneous series of shops and work to develop the surrounding area, since Broadway must become more accessible before it can become more profitable.
Especially in light of its featured fashion show, College Night seemed to strive to imbue Broadway with a more cosmopolitan feel. While this seems a laudable goal, it will be difficult to achieve so long as half the block remains Yale-themed merchandise stores or restaurants and the other half fairly interchangeable clothing outlets. With Broadway’s current tenants in mind, we find it difficult to see what it offers that could genuinely draw students from other colleges to drive across town, even if it’s only a five-minute drive.
As much as we love the Educated Burgher and Bulldog Burrito, few students can be expected to abandon their paid meal plans and drive down to eat there, and we do not expect J. Crew to seem exclusive to Broadway. Gourmet Heaven, arguably the block’s most popular draw among Yale students, is too absurdly expensive for students from other colleges to drive there and be gouged, especially since many of them would have to drive past the half-priced goods at Shaw’s to get to Broadway in the first place.
We believe Broadway developers should take a cue from Chapel Street. As a neighborhood overflowing with ethnic cuisine difficult to come by elsewhere in New Haven, Chapel’s unique offerings seem better able to appeal to college students citywide. Chapel has also benefited substantially from its proximity to the Green, which offers a connection to the rest of downtown New Haven; Broadway currently has no such feeder zone for pedestrian traffic.
Of course, Broadway is surrounded by Yale buildings that are closed to the general public, so linking Broadway and Chapel commercially seems unlikely. But Yale and New Haven could do well to invest further in development along Dixwell Avenue, which is the primary bridge between Broadway and the city beyond the Dixwell neighborhood.
While we cannot deny the improvements made to Broadway in the past decade, it still offers the wider New Haven community little that cannot be found elsewhere, especially for students on fixed incomes. Until the area can broaden its appeal — and we don’t mean with coupons — the choice between marked-up clothes and outlet malls, or between a 10-dollar meal and a dining hall, will remain no choice at all.