University plans for retail stores, hotel downtown

Allison Smith

Projects could be finished by 2013

At the biannual meeting between President Lester Lefton and the student media leaders, Lefton said it is becoming likely that the university will have a hotel and conference center built in downtown Kent.

And this year’s freshmen should see those changes by the time they graduate.

Lefton said he has been meeting with developers, councilmen, university people and donors in large groups to discuss construction plans.

The hotel would have 120 beds, he said, and the conference center will have 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of conference space, as well as a visitor center.

“The idea is that we would pull the Esplanade right down to Haymaker because this is likely to be just on the other side of Haymaker,” Lefton said. “It’s not a done deal, but it is increasingly likely to happen.”

There would be plenty of places to go and events to attend for students, he said. Ideally, Lefton said he pictures “white-table restaurants” and delis, along with boutiques and retail stores.

Lefton compared Kent to other university towns, like Athens, where the downtown areas are common stomping grounds for students.

“It will be transformational for Kent State; it will be huge,” Lefton said. “We expect there’s going to be retail space where there will be clothes stores and bookstores and a number of different kinds of restaurants.”

Lefton said he and city officials have been speaking with the developer of downtown Hudson to take on this project, which is estimated to cost $50 million.

“We think it is hugely important for Kent State,” Lefton said.

During the meeting, Lefton also touched on the following topics:

The university’s budget

“We are managing our budget very, very carefully. I mean, things are so tight with the state, we’re worried about another budget cut.”

Search for the vice president for diversity

“We’ve had four candidates in the last 10 days. They’ve all been interviewed. I’ve met with the search committee already, and I will be inviting an unspecified number of candidates back to campus in the next 10 days.”

The Centennial Celebration

“There’s new signage everywhere, there’s new flowers – we’re trying to sort of give the place a better look. It’s important for recruitment and retention.”

Contact administration reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].

Listen to these short audio clips from the student media editors’ meeting with Lester Lefton.

Listen to what Lefton has to say about LER reform.

What does Lefton have to say about the dorm overcrowding?

Lefton discusses his goals for the year.