Is Claremont a College Town?
This article appeared in the Port Side‘s December 2012 print issue.
“Growing up in a college town in Arizona, I saw students go out on the weekends. They would go out to bars and sports clubs and restaurants and just spend time in town,” said Alexa Muniz SC ’16.
Claremont, Muniz believes, does not fit the definition of a typical college town.
“People who live in college towns dress up in college gear and get really excited about college events. A college town is really integrated with school events and has school spirit. Claremont is somewhat removed from the colleges, and everything we do is basically on campus,” said Muniz.
A majority of students at the 5Cs believe their everyday needs are met on campus, but many are less impressed with life in the city of Claremont outside of its ability to provide necessary services. Students often express dissatisfaction with the shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues in the Claremont Village, complaining that these businesses do not cater to the college-age population and many find the Village too expensive. With these perceived problems, can Claremont really be considered a college town?
Mark Perone of Union on Yale, a restaurant in the Village, expressed his regret that more students don’t frequent Claremont’s businesses.
“I do wish we could have more students enjoy our grounds… we really built Union on Yale to be enjoyed by everyone and we want to support and attract patrons from our local colleges,” said Perone.
Mayor of Claremont, Larry Schroeder, acknowledged Claremont’s lack of student-centric businesses relative to other college towns, but contends that the colleges are rather self-contained.
“The colleges cater to the needs of their students…leaving the other venues to offer something different and/or unique to the students,” said Mayor Schroeder in a phone interview.
He concedes, though, that opportunities for students to socialize off campus are somewhat limited. This has a lot to do with the fact that businesses that are geared towards the college-age population and are willing to locate in Claremont “are somewhat limited due to the size of Claremont itself, but also [that] because of the [relatively low proportion] of students… there are some retailers and entertainment venues that will never locate to Claremont because they only do regional settings,” said Schroeder.
All things considered, Schroeder believes that Claremont offers many opportunities to students.
“I know not every part of [the city] appeals to a younger population, but some of it does,” he said.
Because the Village is so close to campus, criticisms from students, in addition to those regarding the targeted demographic of businesses, include steep price ranges and limited hours of operation at Claremont establishments.
“When you’re on a student’s budget, it gets tough, there’s no doubt about it. You have to seek out the little local restaurants that are a little cheaper. We do have some of those, tucked away,” said Schroeder.
Corey Calaycay, City Council member for seven years, points out that Claremont is still developing. He claims the city does try to compensate for its shortage of quick and cheap dining options.
“We’ve made some progress in the last seven years with the Village expansion, and we’ve brought Norms to town, which is a 24 hour restaurant that accommodates people with humble incomes,” Calaycay said. “We’re definitely trying.”
Scripps Dean of Students Bekki Lee also sees the need to continue looking for ways to balance students’ and other Claremont citizens’ hopes for the city.
“Claremont businesses aspire to attract students while at the same time being a desired destination for people from surrounding communities,” said Lee. “Strong partnerships between colleges and their surrounding communities tend to enrich the experience for everyone involved.”
Though willing to seek out college-friendly options, Schroeder, Calaycay and the City Council are all bound by the fact that as it stands currently, Claremont is a city of 35,000 people and only 7,000 students. The citizens of Claremont enjoy their small town atmosphere—a reality exemplified by past debacles between town citizens and colleges regarding noise levels of on-campus events. This type of disagreement makes it difficult for the City Council to balance the needs of citizens and students in decisions about community space.
Still, Calaycay sees room for improvement in Claremont’s attitude toward the colleges.
“I’m hoping that many of our residents are coming around and warming up to the colleges. There’s always some that do not fully understand the prestige that comes with having the colleges here, that we have a lot of people who come specifically to Claremont because of the colleges. But there are some who have the image that the colleges take more than they give back to the community,” said Calaycay.
Mayor Schroeder welcomes any ideas and suggestions for the city of Claremont. He encourages students to email Bevin Handel at firstname.lastname@example.org