St. Bonaventure University students will be helping merchants during the massive makeover of Olean’s North Union Street.
Students in the strategic communication and digital media degree program — specifically, SC498: The Stalwart Group, a 12-credit, semester-long course — will offer their services to work with the merchants on formulating a strategy that encompasses public relations, advertising and outreach opportunities.
Students will be guided by university faculty throughout the process, but will work with the merchants as clients to propose strategies that will hopefully benefit them.
“They’ll essentially be working as an integrated marketing communications agency,” said Dr. Pauline Hoffmann, dean of the Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “The Stalwart Group students will be taking on three clients, and the North Union streetscape project is one of them.”
Students will offer their services to any interested downtown merchant and develop marketing communication plans for North Union Street businesses, Hoffmann said.
“Initially, the students will be there to help the merchants when the street is ripped up in any way they can to market the business, whether it’s getting the word out about parking or hours of operation,” Hoffmann said. “We are thrilled that the merchants have welcomed our students and the students are excited to take on this important client.”
After the project is completed, Hoffmann said she hopes the journalism school will be a part of long-term marketing efforts for downtown Olean.
“We want to be as collaborative as possible with the community,” she said. “We want to be able to help with this because we are part of this community. North Union is going to be amazing when it’s finished.”
Students have already taken some steps to familiarize themselves with downtown Olean and the project.
“Mike Jones-Kelly, the instructor teaching the course, had the students walk down the entire length of North Union,” Hoffmann said. “He then had them visit Hamburg and walk the main street there because the project that was completed there is very similar to what’s planned for North Union. The students talked to many of the merchants there to find out what they did during that community’s construction project.”
City officials welcomed the assistance of the St. Bonaventure students.
“Some of these students are from different places in New York and some are from out of state, so they can bring a fresh perspective on the project,” Mayor William Aiello told the Times Herald. “Any time you can take a fresh look at something is a good thing.”
The $8.85 million project is being funded with a mixture of grants. The bulk of the work will be paid for with a $6.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (T.I.G.E.R.) grant Olean was awarded for the project from the federal Department of Transportation in September, which the Common Council unanimously accepted in October.
Through the project, city officials hope to make downtown Olean more welcoming to pedestrians and businesses, calm traffic, and make long-overdue upgrades to North Union’s utilities.
According to the website Walkable Olean, major elements of preliminary design for the streetscape project include reducing the street from four lanes of traffic to two to make way for two 6-foot-wide bike lanes and an 8-foot-wide center median; replacing the underground water, sewer and storm sewer lines; installing new street lights; putting in single-lane roundabouts at five of North Union’s seven intersections; and widening the sidewalks on both sides of the street by two feet.
Work is scheduled to begin this fall on North Union Street.
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