Cultured area hopes to attract more students
° hGod is real and he cares
about people; he cares
about you, so we do too.
By Sarah Ziering |
Daily Arts Writer
- New Life Church website
uality generally comes with a high price tag and for
m any years, Main Street has projected a chic, pricey
r image, sending people away to State Street for a more
eco n oical night out. While serving as a draw for some,
Main Sreet rumors of $12 dollar martinis have held students
ad locals alike back from becoming area regulars. While
sients have ventured to Rush Street, a newer Main Street
tapas bar, for a more upscale night out, they have not yet real-
ized the full potential of the area.
In an attempt to shed its "parents only" image, Main Street
has found fresh ways of attracting both a younger and a more
diverse crowd. With this new tactic, Main Street businesses have
created an informal, unstated coalition, each business doing its
part to create a stylish yet approachable atmosphere that carries
over from bars and music venues to shops and cafes.
No longer just for special occasions or parent visits, students
have come to Main Street for its unique nightlife, a refreshing
replacement from the student bars that normally dominate the
"Main Street is less dirty and less fratty," said LSA senior
Becky Eisen. "It's not as average as State Street, and the res-
taurants are a lot better."
One such venue is Live at JP's, located just a block from
Main on the corner of First and Huron. which offers live music,
dancing and a no cover policy. It's student-friendly atmosphere
and pricing fits students' tastes, but Live at if's has remained
mostly untouched by a majority of the student body.
Also part of Main Street's refreshed look is the comedy
club Improm lrterno. which offers the only improv comedy
in the area and involves the audience into its skits. Despite
the unique approach to entertainment. Impro Inferno is yet
another Main Street night spoi frequented mainly by an older
crowd with rare attendncme by students. "One thing that drew
us is the new comedy club, the Inferno said Ann Arbor resi-
dent Eli.abeth Sieczka, "It's the only improv comedy around.
but it was mostly people my age, like 20s and early 30s."
Yet, there is an overall increase in student presence on Main
Street even if it remains slight. "l'm surprised at how much
intergenerational mixing there is these days." said Sieczka,
"College students never used to go down to Main Street."
Eisen has also taken notice of the rising stature of Main
Street and is not deterred by the distance and higher prices.
"My mom said Main Street used to be a dump. She was
amazed at how different it is now. I go there one or two times
a week now," she said.
Clothing stores in particular have taken notice of the lack of
student presence on Main Street. In hopes of getting people to
shop, play and stay on Main Street, stores are now welcoming
shoppers until 9 p.m. on the weekends. Hoi Polloi, a clothing
boutique that opened in April 2004, tries to woo shoppers not
just with impeccable hand-picked pieces but with what own-
ers Lisa and Ed Shedlock call "a shopping experience." With
customers ranging from nine to 79 years old, the boutique
tries to cater to anyone who walks through its doors, which
translates into anything from putting together a formal out-
fit for shoppers to supplying bored boyfriends with beer and
football on the TV that sits on an antique table outside the
dressing rooms. The plush atmosphere of the store presents an
aura of elegance and funk at the same time, which echoes its
clientele as well.
"Unlike most stores, we offer a cross-generational selec-
tion. We offer lines that start at $39 and at $300," said store
manager Robin Reinhart.
"Students are starting to wander in, and they are impressed
with what they see," she added. So while the adventurous few
have moved away from boutiques closer to campus, the store
is relying on word of mouth, later hours and attentive service
to draw in the rest. But will they come?
One way in which students are making a presence on Main
Street is in the daytime locations that serve as study locations
more removed from the fight for study space on campus. On
a weelend day, row of laptops and notebooks can be seen
glowing from the windows of place like Sweetwaters C'af6.
Servig the usually cafl fre. along with some more gourmet
treas Sweetwaters attracts crowds at both of its Ann Arbor
area locations, while maintaining a low-key atmosphere. The
smaller crowds more parking (there's a parking lot across the
street:. and long hours (open until midnight daily) have made
the move from State Street easier for some students.
While many Main Street venues are keeping longer hours
and are varying prices to accommodate a younger crowd, the
unique venues - such as Alley Bar on W. Liberty. which is a
more casual version of The Brown Jug - have yet to attract
the majority of students. Those that have ventured to Main
Street have blended easily into the traditionally older scene
an created a cross-generational atmosphere that Main Street
strives for, but nonetheless have not secured the area as a des-
tination for eating, shopping and entertainment. Still, Main
Street businesses are still working- to accommodate every-
"One thing we all have in common down here is we want to
make (Main Street) a destination," Reinhart said.
passage (Romans 8:31) into the present. He told
many stories from his own life (the first time a girl
told him she loved him was in the 10th grade) and
he drew parallels with today's culture, comparing
God's love to the Powerball lottery.
His sermon demonstrated how New Life has
managed to attract and maintain such a young
crowd of followers: He brought the message of
his favorite passage - that God is not judgmental
- to within the reach of a student growing up in
the 21st century.
"The sermons are all really relevant to college
students. (The pastors) speak normally and do not
talk down to Church-goers," Milian said.
In April 2002, New Life Church and Great Com-
mission Ministries, the parent organization of New
Life, bought the old Delta Zeta sorority house on
Washtenaw Avenue. Despite initial resist tice from
the Ann Arbor Planning Commission, they have
transformed it into their headquarters. and, accord-
ing to Milian and the website, construction is soon
to be under way to build an auditorium in the acre
of land behind it. When construction is complete,
the Washtenaw auditorium will take wer the role
that M13 now occupies as the congregation hall.
A cOse-knit community
New Life Church also seems to have recognized
the overwheiming desire that students - especially
those at such a large and impersonal university as
this one - have searched for a leeper meaning to
life than partying or getting straight As. It is more
than just the rock band and the donuts available
after Sunday's service that have amassed such a
followin for New Life. The Church fosters a sense
of community that is hard to come by for students
who don't have their teammates or cast members
to count as a community. Indeed, spending even
one morning surrounded by New Life Christians is
almost enough to convince an atheist to sign up.
The environment is as close to being judgment-
free as can exist on a college campus. And for prac-
ticing Christians, many of which have grown up
feeling ostracized because of their religiousness,
New Life is very appealing, and extremely hard to
The Church organizes weekend-long retreats
once a semester that Milian said are crucial to
maintaining the community feel. "They make the
Church seem smaller; it makes it easier to enjoy the
community" when people are together for an entire
weekend, she said.
The sense of belonging that New Life Church
members cherish not only exists between members.
"God is real and he cares about people; he cares
about you, so we do too," the website says. For a
Christian, there is no greater comfort than God's
Yet New Life Church must work hard lest it lose
its followers to the many temptations that come
packaged with a college education. Joel Vander-
Schel, a deacon with New Life Church, said that
he and the pastors "try to be as relevant as we can
to college students, to offer to them somewhere to
turn with real-life issues."
The Life Groups, another service offered by
the church, are another way that community is
The Groups. which are held quietly each week
all over campus, are examples of both the Church's
attempt to connect with the younger generation and
the younger generation's reciprocated commitment
to New Life. Organized exclusively by student lead-
ers (who go through a training process with New
Life Church leaders). the groups have one main
purpose, according to the website: to create and
strengthen authentic relationships between fellow
Christians. Or, put another way, the Life Groups
"do life together."
Each week, a pastor from the Church sends an
e-mail to the various leaders, after which the group
members meet to discuss their lives in terms of
Jesus and the Bible.
One Thursday night, the theme was the "team,"
and the accompanying passage from the Bible was
Acts 13: 1-3. What is most remarkable about the
Bible study groups is the intentional effort bring-
ing the Scripture up to date, pulling it to within
the reach of typical students who spend their days
hearing slang and curse words, not formal, ancient
EUGENE ROBERTSON/ Daily
Improv Inferno, a comedy club on Main Street, currently caters to an older crowd
rather than students .
Gain real world
Karen Ostafinski, a Residential College alum, s
plays catchy rock songs for its listeners.
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12B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 27, 2005