In her inauguration speech, Dr. Robin Bowen, president of Arkansas Tech University, said she wanted to see El Paso Avenue become Russellville’s version of Dickson Street in Fayetteville. We at the Arka Tech, however, got hung up on the idea of associating El Paso with Dickson Street.
Dickson Street is a bustling stretch that lies at the heart of downtown Fayetteville. It’s very successful and has a slew of businesses that provide an active night life for Northwest Arkansas. Bookstores, coffee houses, boutiques, the revamped Waffle House and other restaurants play host to much of the activity there. But the foremost attraction, when we think of Dickson Street, is the bars.
A few members of our staff are Arkansas natives, and have spoken openly about their Friday and Saturday nights spent on Dickson Street. But the common theme remains; they think of intoxicated young adults that are lucky enough to find their way back to their apartments after 3 a.m.
Let us be clear – this is not all Dickson Street has to offer, like we mentioned before. The day businesses and farmer’s markets bring just as much attention to the thriving city as its infamous night life does. And that’s a feat that’s not to be underscored; the street itself has seen the evolution from grunge and shady street corners to potted plants, improved lighting and apparel suppliers. It could even have a hand in the success almost the entire Northwest part of the state has seen.
In 2014 the Fayetteville City Council republished statistics from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics that showed a steady decline in unemployment, from 0.3 to 0.5 percent, for Northwest Arkansas, but specifically for Fayetteville in September and October of that year. And with all downtown now has to offer business wise, there’s a focus on revenue the street brings in. Sure, it may be infamous for its bars, but the revenue and attention it brings to the city alone is impressive. It’s also a feature of the University of Arkansas, and runs right off of campus. But it still carries with it this stigma of intoxicated college students.
Is this what we want right off of the campus of Arkansas Tech University?
El Paso plans have been circulating more strongly since the university has seriously begun talks of its improvements. Many of the properties down the avenue, in fact, are university owned. But as students who value the integrity of the university, we don’t want to see the dream include businesses that would threaten to tarnish that integrity. Give us apartments, coffee houses, boutiques and other establishments that give us somewhere to go after 11 p.m. We understand that discriminating against vape lounges and bars might not be possible, but as an education based university, the fight might be a necessary one.
As writers. As students vested in the future of our institution. We beseech the community to consider the ramifications when dubbing El Paso Avenue as the next Dickson Street.