Student-friendly Target store coming to the UT 'Drag'

In July of 2017, the Dobie Twenty21 on The Drag will have a Target.
               
This week Target announced they'll be opening what they call a flexible-format store there -- the first of its kind in Texas.
               
At just 22,000 square feet, it will be a place for UT students and faculty to grab a quick package of raman, a toothbrush or a laundry basket for the dorm room.
               
"It's interesting that they're coming in.  I think it's probably good for Dobie and that corner of the campus area," said Cheryl Phifer, a UT alum and CEO of the University Co-Op.

The Co-Op has been around for 120 years.  Most of that time, they've been right here on the drag.

We asked if they're afraid the new big-box-retailer will take away some of their business.  Phifer says the Co-Op is unique which puts them in a different situation than Target.

"We're just going to have to see what their mix is going to look like.  I think that where we will stand out is that if it's in burnt orange, we probably have it...we've got the name of the University Co-Op for the past 120 years," Phifer said.

UT freshman Tinsai Worke or Tina as her friends call her, comes from a small town so she's not used to riding the bus everywhere.  She says for that reason she gets the appeal of the Target being so close.

"People like me who never use a bus system could like not get lost on the road but easily just walk to the nearest Target.  But I understand the people's feelings, the local's feelings because small business is what made Austin.  And it's really sad if you're going to lose all of that to big industrial, commercial complexes," Worke said.

Robert Jensen has been a journalism professor at UT since 1992.  He's seen The Drag change constantly.

"The most obvious change is the coming of more and more corporate stores, more and more chains and the disappearance of smaller, funkier, locally owned," Jensen said.

Professor Jensen says The Drag of today has more of a shopping mall vibe.

"Bringing a Target is only going to exacerbate that.  It's going to lose some of the character.  Obviously Target is going to be convenient, students are going to like it for all sorts of reasons, low-cost goods, easily accessible, all in one place.  You trade that convenience and price for the kind of charm of locally-owned businesses so in some sense it's a real loss," Jensen said.

Between now and next December, Target plans to open stores like this near the University of Cincinnati, North Carolina, Southern California and the University of Florida.

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