The gentrification of Kent (State)

SKS Editors

Kent was a sleepy little town, more the size of a village really, with a local population that was aging.

Most international students coming to Kent would tell you about the culture shock on first coming here. Where were the tall buildings, the exotic cuisines and the malls? Small town America takes some time to get used to for most international students who arrived from large cities and arrived expecting America to be exactly the way the movies depict it to be.

Kent was a safe little place. Nothing much ever happened and the Kent students provided all the excitement in the town.

Kent’s changing though. More students are attending Kent State every year. President Lefton has pointed out that enrollment figures are good and despite the economic recession, or perhaps because of it, more students are coming to college.

And so the sleepy town of Kent is changing too. Ten years from now, it’s doubtful that any of us would recognize Kent’s downtown.

So is that good or bad? We don’t know. It just is.

Kent institutions, as integral to student life as the university itself, will also have to adapt and evolve.

If the new proposed conference center and hotel is built as has been planned, for one thing, transportation could improve.

Until now, the town of Kent and the university have remained separate, with one remaining firmly on one side of the boundary and the other remaining within its gated community lines. And never did the twain meet, as the bard said.

The proposed extension of the Kent State esplanade to connect downtown Kent with the campus will change all of this.

There may be no separation between university and city. Kent State University and Kent could blend identities and merge as one. Yes, this will probably herald better economic growth for the city of Kent, but the nostalgia of a small town Kent, Ohio, the charm inherent of small town America will be swallowed up by cookie-cutter American big business.

Kent institutions like Ray’s Place, the Kent Stage, and other places in Kent’s downtown will probably see more competition from the proposed retail center establishments.

We hope the university’s renewed interest in its namesake city will spur economic development and allow for a greater downtown experience. But we hope that development does not come at the cost of Kent’s unique charm. And while we hope the university can bring new investors to Kent, we hope they don’t turn the town we know and love into a carbon-copy suburb.

The above is the general consensus of the Kent State editorial board. Editor Jenna Staul abstained from contributing to this editorial because she has provided coverage on university-city relations.