The union of town and gown

Nick Glunt

Kent State’s positive economic relationship with the city of Kent is set to become greater as new businesses open up downtown, university officials said.

View a map of Kent’s reconstruction projects.

Iris Harvey, vice president of university relations, was unavailable for interviews, but by e-mail said, “the goal of the (downtown renovation) project is to revitalize the city by creating a strong town-gown relationship where students, faculty and staff can eat, shop and conduct business.”

Prior to this project, both parties did little to foster a relationship. The downtown renovations are likely to be the grounding that solidifies their bond.

Though the relationship is already a positive one, Harvey said the university hopes to strengthen it even more with these projects.

The university is the largest source of jobs and revenue to the city. Harvey said the university estimates its presence represents about $60 million in annual income to Kent and its surrounding communities.

Tom Euclide, associate vice president for facility planning and operations, said there is significant collaboration between the university and the city in the downtown construction.

“The city is very immensely involved,” he said, “probably more than the university.”

City officials Dan Smith, economic development director, and City Manager Dave Ruller were unavailable for comment. Gregg Floyd, vice president for finance and administration, was also unavailable.

As University Media Relations Director Emily Vincent puts it, the city and university seem to share a symbiotic relationship.

“What’s good for the university is good for the city of Kent,” Vincent said. “What’s good for the city is good for Kent State.”

Kent, Kent State work together on city improvements

Kent State and the city of Kent have several projects underway that both parties hope will boost the economic status of the city.

Tom Euclide, associate vice president for facility planning and operations, said the university and the city are working together on these projects, all of which should be finished by 2012. Below is a list of the projects, as explained by Euclide and adapted from Daily Kent Stater and Record Courier articles.

Multimodal center/Kent Gateway

Referred to as the “Kent Gateway” by Euclide, the multimodal center will be a 10-bus bay to allow PARTA transit from Kent to places like Cleveland, Akron and Streetsboro. The ground floor will have an area for retail, including shops and restaurants. Students will be able to leave their vehicles in a nearby parking garage.

Acorn Alley extension

Officially unveiled in Sept. 2009, the downtown retail development Acorn Alley has reportedly flourished business-wise. Some have even said the complex has attracted more students downtown to other businesses as well. This October, owner Ron Burbick is to commission the construction of five more shops, extending the length of the alley from Main Street to Erie Street.

Hotel and conference center

A project years in the making, the tentatively called Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center is being built along South Depeyster Street by Columbus-based hotel developer Pizzuti Companies. When finished, it will be a six-story, 110-room hotel with a conference center across the street.

Extension of the esplanade

The esplanade, as it currently walks, is the pathway that leads from Risman Plaza toward Bowman Hall. For about a year now, plans to extend the esplanade to downtown have been in the works. The idea, President Lester Lefton said when the plans were first revealed, is to have the e splanade end at Haymaker Parkway so as to directly connect the campus with downtown Kent.

Downtown retail development block

The block between Erie, Water and Depeyster streets and Haymaker Parkway is to be renovated into an economically uplifting retail area. Office space, restaurants, shopping locations and residence buildings should be completed by Fall 2012. With these new properties will come between 400 and 500 new jobs, said Dan Smith, Kent city economic development director.

Contact administration reporter Nick Glunt at [email protected].