Meet your new neighbor: KSU

Jenna Staul

As Kent State readies itself for a $200 million overhaul of its main campus, it’s also vying to expand its reach into downtown.

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At its May 26 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the purchase of four properties on College Avenue, Willow and Erie streets.

Tom Euclide, associate vice president for facility planning and operations, said the purchases, which equal more than a dozen made in recent years, are a part of a plan to mesh Kent State’s campus with the community that surrounds it.

“The primary reason is so that we can expand the esplanade through downtown,” Euclide said. “One of the reasons we’re buying up property surrounding the area is to protect the esplanade. We don’t want a McDonald’s to be built around the esplanade.”

Though there is no date for further construction of the esplanade, Euclide said some of the newly purchased Kent State properties will be put to use during the university’s extensive renovation plans.

Euclide said some of the buildings purchased are in the process of being rehabilitated for use as university office space for several non-academic departments.

“We have options,” Euclide said. “We’ve talked about moving some of the departments on campus that are not a daily visit for students.”

President Lester Lefton said the city, university and developers are roughly 60 days away from a development deal of a hotel and conference center. He believes that construction for the center, which will include a surrounding retail area, will begin within the next year.

Developers for the complex, which has been in the negotiation process for the last year, include Pizzuti Inc. of Columbus and Fairmont Properties of Cleveland. Lefton met with the project’s developers, investors and city officials at a meeting last week.

“I have no doubt that it is going to happen,” said Lefton, who added that the university is serving as a convener between developers, investors and the city. “There are a lot of players. It’s kind of like making a symphony work.”

Euclide said university’s interest in development downtown could have a long-term impact on the city’s economy. He said some off-campus student housing has become an eyesore for visitors and potential students.

“It is a concern,” Euclide said of unkempt downtown houses. “We want to have a dynamic neighborhood next to the university. And overtime we want to create opportunities for businesses.”

Contact editor Jenna Staul at [email protected].