EKU, City Partner to Enhance Appeal of Downtown

A new initiative entitled the Downtown Richmond/EKU Engagement Project is bringing University and community representatives together in an effort to discuss possible town-gown partnerships that would benefit the downtown business district as well as Eastern students, faculty and staff.

The project, organized by Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes and EKU President Michael Benson, is modeled after a similar effort in Scranton, Pa. Officials first learned of Scranton’s city-university project at the 2013 International Town and Gown Association Conference in Buffalo and have since been in communication with leaders in that community.

Barnes will hear directly from EKU students at a public forum, “Your Town. My Town, Our Town! An EKU Student Conversation with Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes,” on Tuesday, Feb. 4, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Powell Building Lobby. Refreshments will be served, and all Eastern students are invited.

“EKU and the City of Richmond have long enjoyed a positive and productive relationship,” Benson said, “and this project is another great example of how we can work together for the benefit of all our citizens. Forging stronger ties between the University community and downtown Richmond can only help us grow and prosper. As president, I appreciate all the City does in support of the University and our students, and I commend Mayor Barnes for his eagerness to listen to our students. I also welcome the chance to implement some of the great ideas which I’m confident will emerge from our citizens as a result of this ongoing dialogue.”

Marc Whitt, associate vice president for public relations at EKU and chair of the project team, said: “The mayor believes the timing for this conversation is critical as he and President Benson continue to discuss meaningful town-gown relationships and collaborations such as developing a Downtown Richmond that would attract the University community to shop, dine and be entertained. Mayor Barnes wants to learn from the students what they want – what retail, dining and entertainment opportunities would give Richmond, particularly the downtown area, the college-town appeal so many other college towns have.”

This is believed to be the first time a Richmond mayor has conducted an on-campus discussion with EKU students. Benson and Sarah Carpenter, Student Regent and president of the Student Government Association (SGA), will also be on the program.

In addition to Benson, Barnes, Whitt and Carpenter, other members of the project team include EKU officials Mike Reagle and April Barnes, both from the Division of Student Affairs; Brandon Mandigo, also from the SGA; EKU graduate student Stephanie Cunagin, whose internship revolves around the project; Rose Rex, director of the Downtown Richmond Association; and Kristin Purdy, of Purdy’s Coffee, chair of the Downtown Richmond Association’s Collaboration Committee.

Published on January 28, 2014