Downtown Kent Revitalization project named ‘Best Project’ in the State



Richard Rebadow a board member of the Ohio Economic Development Association presents Kent City Council President Wayne Wilson the “Best Project” award from OEDA , during the city council meeting on Nov. 7. . Photo by Brian Smith.

John Milligan

Downtown Kent has been a construction nightmare for months. But in exchange for closed streets and dust clouds, the city has seen some of the most ambitious growth in the state of Ohio.

The Downtown Kent Revitalization project has been recognized as the Ohio Economic Development Association’s “Best Project” in the state. Rick Rebadow, OEDA board member and Greater Akron Chamber vice president, presented city council Wednesday with a plaque acknowledging its efforts.

“This project is a catalyst that will have a lasting effect on Kent, Kent State University, Portage County and Northeast Ohio,” Rebadow said. “And you did it during really challenging [economic] times.”

Kent is being recognized for its investment and growth in the downtown area. The $106 million revitalization project has produced more than 900 construction jobs and will eventually yield 700 permanent jobs in dozens of new businesses. The project is also being awarded for its use of tax increment financing, a $20 million federal TIGER grant and an Ohio 629 Infrastructure grant, as well as others.

“We don’t do this stuff for the awards,” said city manager Dave Ruller. “But I’m not ashamed to accept it.”

Economic Development Director Dan Smith was quick to comment that the downtown development project would not have been possible without an extraordinary level of cooperation between several organizations including City Council, PARTA and Kent State.

The development has also been an example of public (PARTA) and private (Phoenix Properties) partners working together toward a common goal.

“I get a kick out of this because people think this was an overnight project, but it wasn’t” Smith said. “It’s a community effort when these things happen.”

Wayne Wilson, representative for Ward 3 and a 20-year council member, accepted the award on behalf of the council. He joked at the idea that while construction has only been underway for the past five years, plans have been in the works much longer.

“Five years,” Wilson said, “More like 15!”

The OEAD Best Project Award “recognizes outstanding and innovative projects in economic and business development that retain or generate jobs and investment. This can be anything from a retention project to a new facility construction and redevelopment …”

The Downtown Kent Revitalization project beat out the “Abbott Liquid Nutrition Manufacturing Facility” and “BX Solutions Provides Fresh Start to Cargo Operations at Toledo Express Airport” to win the distinction of “Best Project.”

While Smith admitted it would be nearly impossible to repeat an honor like this considering the other impressive projects underway around Ohio, he is happy Kent’s efforts are being recognized.

“[The award] is a tremendous validation for the city,” Smith said. “It took a tremendous amount of work on the part of city council to take [downtown development] from pretty pictures to a reality. We’re really pleased to be selected.”

Contact John Milligan at [email protected].