The following comes from a Mar. 16 story in UT San Diego.
Just about everywhere you look these days in downtown Escondido, college students are making movies, eating at restaurants, working at part-time jobs or studying in Maple Street Plaza.
Merchants and city officials say the arrival last September of John Paul the Great Catholic University, which focuses on careers in film and animation, has enlivened Escondido’s struggling downtown and given it a more youthful vibe.
“Every time I’m downtown I see students walking around, making movies or eating at Swami’s,” City Councilman John Masson said last week. “We want more people downtown and this is helping.”
School officials say this could be just the beginning. The university recently bought another downtown building, expanding the scope of its operation to four sites on Grand Avenue, and enrollment is projected to grow from 175 students to about 1,000 in the next few years.
Long-term goals include spurring a cluster of media businesses around the campus, with former students running many of them.
“We are committed to being in Escondido,” said Tim Van Damm, who leads the university’s fundraising efforts. “We’re a natural fit here because Escondido has been working toward a downtown focused on the arts for many years.”
Escondido built the California Center for the Arts nearby in 1994 and the city has been trying to attract art galleries downtown ever since. But city officials were initially reluctant to approve the university because it conflicts with the city’s goal of a downtown filled with restaurants and live entertainment venues.
Dan Forster, president of the Downtown Business Association, said those concerns seem to be fading away.
“Students walking around has created a buzz,” he said. “They eat at Pedro’s Downtown Deli, they film inside the Grand Tea Room and they’re just an overall positive influence.”
Several new restaurants opened at roughly the same time as the university, creating a snowball effect for the area, Forster said. And the students have helped make sure those restaurants succeed, he said….
Others have also blamed the university for contributing to a downtown parking shortage that’s emerged in recent months.
But Councilman Masson said the shortage is the result of so many new businesses opening. Van Damm said students are strictly prohibited from parking downtown and that university officials monitor student cars.
Most of the students live in Latitude 33, an upscale apartment complex that opened a few blocks north of Grand in summer 2012. Students are required to walk from there to campus, Van Damm said.
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