19th Street Experience: Your Guide to the 19th Street Area Businesses
Marketing Research : Spring 2004
Supervised by Gail Eisenberg
Nineteenth Street in Allentown has been one of the town's popular spots for over half a century. Unfortunately, its popularity has been affected in recent years by the deterioration of downtown. Many companies have taken their business elsewhere such as Bethlehem, Whitehall, and other newly thriving locations. Nineteenth Street was at one time home for many large businesses, but today it consists of many privately owned restaurants, small specialty stores and the Civic Theatre. With the population of both Allentown and Muhlenberg College increasing, there is great potential to make 19th Street a staple location of activity for the people of Muhlenberg College as well as the Allentown residents.
Muhlenberg College's President Helm is an active member of Allentown Ahead, whose purpose is to identify potential Allentown Neighborhoods for development. The President and the committee feel that the area around 19th Street in Allentown could be a prime area for economic development. Additionally, feedback from Muhlenberg students consistently expresses dissatisfaction with the current campus social life. Since 19th Street is only a few blocks East of campus, the President feels that changes there could make a difference in the satisfaction of Muhlenberg students. President Helm has commissioned a study to get feedback from the relevant parties about their attitudes toward the 19th Street shopping area. The study called for Muhlenberg students, local residents and businesses in the 19th Street region to be interviewed to see what their position is on the proposal. This is an exploratory study in its early stages, which is attempting to better gauge the interest of students and neighbors.
The study was divided into three major sections, each lead by a different team. The first team conducted four separate focus groups with Muhlenberg students, one made up of freshmen, one consisting of sophomore and juniors combined, one made up of seniors, and one that consisted entirely of students majoring in one of the humanities. The purpose of the discussion was to gather information regarding the students' perceptions of the 19th Street area. The moderators of these focus groups also asked the participants for their opinions about possible new developments that would attract them, along with other Muhlenberg students, to the area. The second team conducted three separate focus groups with local community residents. By talking to neighbors of the college, the team members hoped to uncover possible concerns the neighbors might have about more students coming to the 19th Street area. The neighbors were also asked what types of improvements they would like to see made to the 19th Street area. And finally, the last team interviewed the owners of ten businesses located in the 19th Street area. The purpose was to find out whether or not the businesses were interested in having Muhlenberg students as customers.
After performing the three studies, the results are as follows:
Student Focus Groups:
- Most students were familiar with the area.
- It has the potential to be the "Main Street" of campus with the bars, restaurants and theatre.
- Create a more aesthetically pleasing atmosphere by adding lighting, greenery and flags that unify area.
- Improve transportation and transportation route, including a shuttle from campus and improved sidewalks between campus and the 19th Street area.
- Businesses should have a desire for students to frequent the area.
Community Focus Groups:
- Positive experiences with the students on campus when using various facilities of the college.
- Residents see 19th Street as a "Bohemian Commercial" area that is very inviting and convenient.
- Residents are attracted to the nostalgic atmosphere and most of them frequent the restaurants, the theatre, as well as the various small shops.
- Improvements they would like to see to 19th Street include atmosphere improvements such as additional seating and landscaping, additional parking, and new businesses such as a used bookstore and an ice cream parlor.
- Provided students positively add to the 19th Street experience, residents feel more than willing to share the space with them as long as they are respectful.
- The storeowners feel that they attract their customers with their expertise and personal touch.
- Businesses promote to Allentown, but do little to no promotions to Muhlenberg students.
- Almost all business owners want to increase business with Muhlenberg students, but do not know how to go about doing so.
- Fifty percent of business owners see 19th Street as a shopping area, and the other 50% think of it is a group of scattered stores. All businesses express that the region has potential.
- Recommendations from the businesses were additional parking, lighting and general beautification to unify the area.
Based on the findings discussed above, recommendations were made regarding four specific aspects of 19th Street including beautification, transportation, advertisements & promotions, and suggested business additions.
- Overall improvements in the street's appearance - cleanliness, more lighting, additional greenery, sidewalk repairs.
- Additional parking for those who drive as well as safer conditions for those who walk to the area.
- Advertising and promotional efforts that focus on making students aware of what's offered by 19th Street businesses as well as providing some incentives to get them there.
- Additional restaurants and businesses that will provide some 'hang out space' for students who do frequent the area.