Let’s build a true college town

DKS Editors

On Wednesday night, Kent City Council members voted unanimously to move forward on efforts to team up with Kent State to help develop downtown, as well as allow the university to extend the Esplanade.

We’ve heard for too long that the city and the university just don’t get along as well as other college towns, and it’s good to see some cooperation between the two in order to bring more business downtown and further link the two entities.

No college can be an island. And while current students may think they live on Kent State’s campus and not in Kent, hopefully the line will become increasingly blurred in the future.

The city receives more from the university than beer cans on the lawn, and the university receives more from the city than a place for its students to occasionally eat and frequently attend the bars.

Council members and university administration sound like they are in on this plan for the right reasons: to bring the two communities together, and of course, to make some money.

The plan represents the old “you’ve got to spend money to make money” mentality. A better-developed downtown Kent would be almost as useful to a university selling itself to prospective students as it would to the city.

But still, with tuition costs that never seem to stop rising — let alone go down — and plans to spend millions of dollars to revamp areas on campus, it would be hard to endorse this project from Kent State’s end if it was a charitable gift.

President Lester Lefton told a group of student media leaders that a major reason the administration was attracted to the development project was because of the potential for profit.

“We are prepared to do it if it will make the deal work,” Lefton said “And we will make money off of it, too.”

That’s a nice assurance. Students want the downtown development deal to work for them, not the other way around.

It’s not that Kent State students aren’t generous — they’ve proven the opposite many times — it’s just that now is the time for investments that could defray the costs students pay. It’s not the time for money pits that will cost the university for years to come.

But it’s also not the time to shrink from a possible great idea like the expansion of the Esplanade and the redevelopment of areas in downtown Kent. In fact, it’s time to stop saying, “We’ll make a concerted effort to link up with the city … later.”

This could be a historic step in changing the face of the university and the town. We’re ready for Kent to be a true college town, not just a quaint little city separated from Kent State University.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.