$3.3M overhaul of Risman Plaza to start in spring

Rachel Rathjens

This digital image represents what Risman Plaza will look like after its fall 2010 finish. The project will add trees, a new bus shelter and outdoor seating.

Credit: DKS Editors

Current view of Risman Plaza

Credit: DKS Editors

Lined with bricks, black picnic tables and a colossal water fountain, Risman Plaza isn’t the most charming place on Kent State’s campus.

By Homecoming 2010, some of the bricks will be replaced with grass, some tables replaced with alternative outdoor seating, and the fountain will be gone.

The Office of the University Architect is planning to start the $3.3 million Risman Plaza project in the spring of 2010. The project is being financed by capital funds accumulated in the last four years.

“We want to update, improve, and make the plaza have a softer feel to it,” said Michael Bruder, director of design and construction in the Office of the University Architect. “We want it to be a student-friendly place.”

Tom Euclide, associate vice president for facilities planning and operations, explained the idea of the project is to make the Student Center more of a living and learning space for students.

The plans show the “front porch” of the Student Center will be extended out to make room for rectangular-shaped concrete bases where trees will be placed in double rows. This will provide shaded seating and as make the plaza look greener. Other seating will be a circular green area of lawn where students can relax and study on nice days.

Other plans for renovation include building a new bus shelter in front of the Kiva just a few feet away from the bus shelter now, which will be taken down, and a decorative wall that will read “Kent State University” will take its place. There will also be a 60-foot wide “K” put on the concrete behind where the current bus shelter is.

In a meeting with student media leaders at the beginning of this semester, President Lester Lefton said the project will do more than make the campus look nicer for current students.

“It’s important for recruitment and retention,” he said. “I mean, think about it: If you’re a student coming from Cincinnati and saying ‘well, I can stay home and go to Miami (University), which is a gorgeous campus, or I can come to Kent State and have Tiananmen Square outside of the Student Center.’ We’re really going to create a different look that’s much more inviting.”

Although the current water fountain will be deconstructed, Bruder is not ruling out a new fountain-like structure.

“We have not yet decided, but we may put in a new water feature somewhere within the decorative wall to make up for tearing down the fountain,” Bruder said. “But nothing is final for that yet.”

To prevent snow build-up in the winter, a snowmelt system will be added to heat pavement close to entrances of buildings. The heated pavement is being placed to protect structures and to prevent slush from being dragged into the building by traffic. The plan is to also put the heated pavement on main walkways and where students will be sitting.

The construction will begin in March and April of the Spring 2010 semester. During this time, the fountain will be torn down and the new bus shelter will be built. After the new bus shelter is complete the old one will be torn down.

Bruder said the construction should not interfere with pedestrian and street traffic throughout the process.

“Students will still have access to all buildings surrounding the construction,” he said. “And street traffic will be able to still use Risman Drive, only it will be cut down to one lane.”

The project is expected to be completed by Homecoming in 2010, during which a dedication ceremony will be held.

“We hope to reflect what Kent State is today,” Euclide said. “Not what Kent State was in 1970.”

Contact buildings, grounds and transportation reporter Rachel Rathjens at [email protected].