Parking deck opens, Esplanade nears completion

As the academic school year comes to an end, several of the on-going construction projects throughout Kent are reaching completion.

The PARTA parking deck opened Tuesday, according to Michael Bruder, executive director of Facilities, Planning and Design at Kent State.

Parking on the deck is free from now through the end of May, at which time PARTA will announce the standard rates.

Unlike the parking deck, however, a few projects, such as the Esplanade Expansion and the Wells Sherman House relocation, have some time before they’re completed.

Esplanade expansion

The expansion of the Esplanade is still on track to be finished on June 30 and open on July 1, Bruder said.

“The University Esplanade strengthens the ties between the university and the city by providing a physical link, providing students with a safe pathway to visit, enjoy and patronize downtown Kent and its businesses, as well as connecting residents and visitors to the Kent State campus,” Bruder said.

“We’re gonna try and have some sections of it open for commencement so people can walk on it, but it won’t be completed until the end of June,” Bruder said.

Bruder said the June 30 completion day is the date agreed upon in the construction contract.

Rhonda Boyd, senior engineer for the city of Kent, wrote in an email that although Kent State is still negotiating for the Delta Upsilon property, it will not affect the Esplanade construction.

Esplanade safety

As the expansion of the Kent State Esplanade begins to take shape, students and members of the community will soon be able to more easily travel by foot from campus to downtown Kent. The university and city are taking precautions to ensure the area is safe and secure for pedestrians.

Michquel Penn, community resource officer for the Kent State Police Department, said university police officers and the Kent city police are part of a joint jurisdiction to patrol the area throughout the day and night.

“The Esplanade includes the [Portage] Hike and Bike Trail, so there will be officers on bikes,” Penn said. “Officers will be patrolling the area just like any other part of campus.”

Penn said the Kent State Police Department does not have any specific safety concerns for the area. The blue emergency 911 phones that appear throughout campus will not be part of the Esplanade expansion initially.

“No phones just yet,” Penn said. “We don’t want to overdo it in the first phase.”

Penn said traffic will move normally along Lincoln Street, but there will be flashing stop signs like those that appear near pedestrian-crossing areas on Loop Road and Terrace Drive.

Boyd wrote in an email that there will be a 42-foot-wide pedestrian crossing at Lincoln Street.

Signs will be installed on Lincoln and Willow streets to alert motorists, and pedestrians and cyclists will be required to stop.

Lincoln Street will be closed the third week of May as construction on the Esplanade continues, Boyd wrote. The closure will last approximately 30 days.

“Willow Street has been closed to build the Esplanade crossing,” Boyd wrote. “[It] should be open in time for KSU Commencement.”

Boyd said the Willow Street Esplanade crossing will be elevated to encourage motorists to yield to pedestrians. The brick crossing on Lincoln will be constructed at ground level.

“The street is a bus and emergency route,” Boyd wrote. “It also did not lend well to being elevated due to drainage issues and its close proximity to Hilltop Drive.”

Penn said there will be security cameras placed on the new buildings that will be constructed near the Esplanade expansion. She said the police departments will update safety measures as they are needed.

“We’ll monitor the area for a while and tweak it when there’s a change in the environment,” Penn said.

Wells Sherman House relocation

Kent State has been dismissed as one of the defendants in the on-going court case surrounding the Wells Sherman House, according to Portage County court documents filed on April 22.

Portage County court documents said the decision was made after review of the permanent injunction hearings about the Wells Sherman property found “that Plaintiffs have no evidence against Kent State supporting any claim for permanent injunctive or declaratory relief or other relief.”

The house in question is still at its temporary location on the end of East College Ave, after it was moved from 250 Erie St. to make room for the University Esplanade Expansion in August 2012.

Though Kent State still owns and insures the property, it can be purchased at anytime, according to Roger Thurman, vice chairman of the board for the Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc.

Thurman said the Friends of the Sherman Wells House, the group fighting to preserve the house due to its historical and architectural significance within the city of Kent, are waiting to purchase the house until it moves to its final location.

The house is being moved to 247 N. Water St., better known as the “Standing Rock Garden.”

The Friends of Sherman Wells House had a Dec. 1, 2012 deadline to move the house, but they could not move because of the legal injunctions brought against them on November 9, 2012.

Final arguments in the court case were heard on March 13, and the Honorable Marvin Alan Shapiro, a retired judge of the Summit County Court of Common Please, general Division, has been assigned to preside over the case from April to June, according to court documents.

Lisa Regula Meyer, one of the plaintiffs listed in the case, said nothing else has happened in the court case regarding lifting the injunctions.

“They’re still listed as open cases,” Regula Meyer said. “It doesn’t seem like anything’s been decided yet.”

“At this point, it’s not up to us to continue moving forward or not. It’s in the hands of the court to finally decide,” Regula Meyer said.

Regula Meyer said she and a group of supporters, known as the “Standing Rock Community Garden Co-op” are fundraising to buy different property to serve as a replacement site.

Regula Meyer said community members have used the space for poetry readings and children’s theatre productions, among other things, for the past 20 years with the permission of the previous owner, which is why Save the Standing Rock Garden wants to preserve the property.

According to Jeff Ingram, owner of Standing Rock Cultural Center, the Friends of the Wells Sherman House have foundation plans for the house at the Standing Rock location, but he did not know when ground would be broken at the Standing Rock site because of the on-going court case.

Contact Jackie Bergeron at [email protected] and contact Brittany Nader at [email protected].