Issue: November/December 2013
The city, university and private developers have created a first-class redevelopment project in Kent.
Yes, there is more to Kent than a college campus. In case you need a refresher course, a $106 million redevelopment project is fortifying the town’s ties with the school. It follows other colleges, such as Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., which have worked to bridge the gap between campus and urban centers. “We came to the conclusion that it was time to fulfill our mission and really embrace the university-city concept and use it as an economic advantage,” says Kent city manager Dave Ruller.
1 — College of Architecture and Environmental Design and Poetry Park:
The $40 million College of Architecture and Environmental Design is set to open in 2016. The KSU Wick Poetry Center will also be relocating to the sidelines of the esplanade alongside an amphitheater and poetry park. “The park is designed to display poetry in a variety of ways that fit into a natural setting,” says Tom Euclide, associate vice president of facilities planning and operations at Kent State University.
2 — Esplanade:
The university was once cut off from downtown by a five-lane bypass road. But thanks to a 1,000-foot, $3.3 million extension of the Esplanade, Kent State’s more than 28,000 students, faculty and visitors can now safely travel downtown. An archway at the entrance serves as a gateway. “We’re starting to see a blurring of lines between campus and downtown,” says Fairmount Properties project manager Adam Branscomb. “The campus is now less than a five minute walk away.”
3 — Kent Central Gateway Multimodal Transit Center:
This 365-car parking deck provides regional public transportation with a ground-level bay that holds 10 buses, which will connect to major hospitals and transportation hubs in Northeast Ohio. “We couldn’t add all these businesses and restaurants, and a hotel without having parking,” says Kent State Foundation asset manager Lawrence Carter.
4 — Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center:
Designed to keep potential employees and university visitors close to downtown, the full-service hotel’s 94 rooms include workstations from which guests can print wirelessly to a business center. The connected conference center features 5,000-square-feet of meeting space. “When you’re being brought in to do business with a company, it’s nice to see what environment that business is operating in,” says Carter.
5 — The Landmark at Kent:
Fairmount Properties hopes to attract young professionals and recent graduates with a 32-unit, mixed-use apartment building opening to tenants in spring 2014. “This is really targeting that creative class in their 20s, 30s and 40s who want to be living and working in exciting, sophisticated, urban environments,” says Branscomb.
6 — Acorn Alley:
Kent businessman Ronald Burbick invested $22 million of his own money to jump-start the redevelopment by renovating a series of unused alleys in an area once overrun by bars and tattoo parlors. “A town will die pretty quickly with that kind of situation,” says Burbick. The new retail mix includes restaurants such as Laziza and TreeCity Coffee & Pastry. Figleaf Boutique, a hip shop with locations near other college campuses, and student-run Fashion School Store cater to the youthful crowd.
7 — Infrastructure:
The city provided $3 million for infrastructure support, installing more than 40 light poles and 50 trash cans to increase environmental and pedestrian safety. Twelve sandstone seating walls were also constructed along Erie Street between Haymaker Parkway and South Water Street. “We didn’t want to take away from the core downtown that we had,” says city engineer Jim Bowling. “We wanted to enhance it.”
8 — Fairmount Properties Buildings:
Davey Resource Group, Ametek Technical and Industrial Products and Smithers-Oasis have brought 165 employees into these two buildings, which include restaurants such as Newdle Bar’s Japanese-inspired cuisine and Yogurt Vi’s frozen yogurt bar. “When you have a daytime population of professional office workers, it really helps support and sustain the type of exciting and vibrant downtown,” says Branscomb.
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