Kent wins awards for streets and historic preservation

Amanda Crumm

Kent’s recent transformations earned the city nationwide recognition at the annual America in Bloom awards in Orlando, Fla., where Mayor Jerry Fiala was presented with two distinctions.

America in Bloom, which took place Sept. 21, awarded Kent for Best Commercial Streetscape — the most difficult and special award to win, America in Bloom judge Jack Clasen said. In addition, the city was also awarded a four-bloom-out-of-five rating and special recognition in the 25,001 to 30,000 population category for its work in the area of historic preservation.

“We were thrilled to have all of Kent’s hard work recognized by this prestigious national organization,” Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said. “We don’t do all this community work to win awards, but it’s certainly great to have Kent identified as a community that is having success and is emerging as one of the top college towns in the country.”

The city competed with Wake Forest, N.C., West Chicago, Ill., and Winter Park, Fla., in this population category.

America in Bloom, an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting nationwide beautification programs, presents annual awards in six categories to participants from local communities, university campuses and military installations.

Founded in 2001, the organization encourages community involvement through the use of flowers, plants, trees and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements. Each community is judged on six criteria: floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.

“It’s more than just flowers,” Clasen said. “It’s really about cities blossoming. It’s about community participation and community spirit.”

Clasen said he and former judge Jim Sutton were impressed with Kent’s overall downtown redevelopment, but the downtown floral displays and community involvement were the most impressive components of the city.

“It only takes a stroll downtown to appreciate the energy and beauty of Kent,” the judges wrote in Kent’s nomination to the board of directors, which selected the overall winners of each award.

This is the first year Kent has submitted a proposal to the awards program.

“It was a pleasant surprise for sure,” Kent community development director Bridget Susel said. “We were recognized in two categories our first year trying, so that was wonderful news for the city.”

Some of the highlighted areas, Ruller said, include the city’s landscaping, flowers, seating areas and the Esplanade.

City officials spent two days in July with the America in Bloom judges, touring the city and university campus. Ruller said they discussed Kent’s programs and services used to enforce environmental stewardship, historic preservation and streetscape beautification as top priorities.

“Bricks and mortar of new buildings always bring a lot of excitement, but we have worked hard to balance that with great respect for natural and historic resources,” Ruller said. “These are values that run deep in Kent’s heritage, and we’re proud to be in a position to make sure they continue to play an important role in Kent’s future.”

Ruller said he is optimistic about Kent receiving a higher score next year if the city decides to apply to the program again because of the many projects that are still planned, including public art displays, benches, brick pavers and bike racks. A public plaza also is planned between Bar 145 and the new apartment building at the intersection of East Erie and South Depeyster streets.

“Kent is a great community, and our downtown redevelopment goal was to showcase the best parts of our city,” Ruller said. “So it’s terrific to have all that work affirmed through the many awards and recognitions that we’ve received. We’re proud of the awards, but the best affirmation is seeing all of the diverse people downtown enjoying the shops and restaurants and having a great time.”

Contact Amanda Crumm at [email protected].