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Survey: Teens seek food, fun downtown

Superior High School senior India Davidson, left, discusses the upcoming reconstruction of Belknap Street with Lindsey Jacobson, executive director of the Superior Business Improvement District, on Friday in front of Big Apple Bagels. Davidson’s senior project included a survey on what teens really think about downtown Superior. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

India Davidson’s senior project started with a simple question.

"I wanted to understand how the Business Improvement District functions," said the Superior High School senior, and to raise awareness of it.

A survey spin-off of her project turned that process around, giving local business leaders a teens-eye view of downtown Superior. The answers, provided by 85 Superior High School juniors and seniors during lunch April 6, revealed a desire for more entertainment and restaurant options as well as a trend for young adults to leave the area for college.

"For us, this is a treat, it really is and it’s like a gift, honestly," BID Executive Director Lindsey Jacobson said of the survey results. "You could pay marketing people to do this kind of stuff for you, but they’re just doing what they think you want them to do. It’s really unique."

Davidson started the survey out with a disclaimer that described and defined the boundary of Superior’s BID, raising awareness among participants.

"The BID is 330 businesses in downtown Superior that are part of an organization where they pay tax money to help serve themselves," Davidson said.

She asked how often the teens traveled to downtown Superior.

"A lot of people said rarely, which is unfortunate," Davidson said. In fact, only half said they go pretty often.

Where are they going?

Top destinations were Sweeden Sweets, which is actually outside of the BID, Blue Arrow Boutique, Erbert and Gerbert’s, restaurants in general, Vintage Italian Pizza, AJ’s Tanning, the SAHA hockey rink, Landmark Lanes and the Anchor Bar.

"Boiled down, it was food and fun," Davidson said.

Teens were asked if they enjoyed downtown Superior.

"It was kind of unfortunate," Davidson said. "We had 40 percent saying they loved it and then the rest said either it’s not good for them, they’re not seeing a lot of places they’re enjoying or they just don’t care for it."

"That’s harsh," Jacobson said.

"It is harsh, but it’s good to know," Davidson said.

Asked what they’d like to see downtown, teens chose more restaurants, clothing stores and coffee shops as well as a movie theater and go carts. Some wanted to bring Target back.

Half of the students polled did not plan to attend college in Superior, and another 34 percent were not sure where they’d go. They were split evenly when asked if there were abundant job opportunities for young adults in the area.

Sixty-eight percent of the students supported the creation of an exposition district, a cornerstone of the Better City Superior movement. National Bank of Commerce Community Bank President Bruce Thompson, a member of the Better City Superior board of directors, attended Davidson’s presentation with Jacobson. They thought it was awesome.

"Because it’s just, like, the feedback that you never get" Jacobson said, from a hard-to-reach demographic. "It was a really eye-opening, unique and super-fun surprise to see that she had put this in the project."

Davidson attended BID meetings, interviewed current business owners, and created an informational audio blog about the BID as well as a Power Point presentation and essay encompassing the project. She’s presented her project to the Leadership Superior/Douglas County Program and Optimist Club. Today, she’s slated to show it to the entire junior class as part of a senior project meeting in the school’s performing arts center.

"It’s perfect for my project because the entire point of it is to get the marketing out and to kind of educate my age," Davidson said. "And so this is just another opportunity for me to do that for probably 350 people."

She passed her senior project and left a number of impressed adults in her wake.

"How unique is that to have a high school student reach out, be interested and be able to look at it from a totally different perspective and give us their feedback?" Jacobson said. "That’s super important because me being new to this position, I need to understand what we need to do downtown. It can’t just be what I want. The business owners, property owners, some of them have been involved for 40 years. We don’t know what’s next."

Surveys like this one could help point the way.

"We’re all looking at the future of Superior, so you want to get my generation to really enjoy it here and want to come and live here and raise their families here and so just being able to bring them here is the first part of the puzzle," Davidson said. "Get them here and keep them here."

Jacobson said she hopes to add Davidson’s survey results and presentation to the BID website, www.superiorbid.com.

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