Our view: Give it the green light

Freshmen, it looks like you came to Kent State at the right time. You’re not only one of the biggest and smartest classes in recent years, but you’re also poised to witness many positive changes on campus and in Kent.

Construction is underway for the new Roe Green Center for the School of Theatre and Dance, and President Lester Lefton hopes to revamp Risman Plaza. But the biggest change – about $50 million to be exact – could be coming to downtown Kent.

In a meeting with student media leaders last week, Lefton said a downtown Kent overhaul is “increasingly likely to happen.” And we think that’s great news.

This isn’t the first mention of the plan, which includes extending the University Esplanade to Haymaker Parkway, building a hotel and conference center and adding retail space. For the past year, university and city officials have been discussing the idea – with the current holdup being financing, or finding a developer to invest in the pricey project. Lefton said he and city officials have been meeting with the developer of downtown Hudson, who also transformed West Virginia University’s college town in Morgantown.

If finalized, Lefton said freshmen likely will see the finished project by the time they graduate.

To measure the success of such a project, look no further than Acorn Alley in downtown Kent. The new retail area, financed by Ron Burbick, has already drawn significant community and campus interest – and not all the shops are even open.

Acorn Alley highlights the community’s desire for downtown attractions beyond beer-guzzling establishments. (Don’t get us wrong: Students enjoy the bars, but we crave daytime destinations as well.)

Even so, the beauty in the proposed downtown transformation lies in its ability to connect Kent State with the Kent community. Of course it will look nice, but, furthermore, it stands to benefit both entities.

Think about it: Thousands of students attending Kent State have friends and family scattered miles away who might savor the chance to get away for a weekend at a place other than a college campus. The proposed plan would make Kent an attractive place to spend a weekend while visiting loved ones.

And half the battle of recruiting students is the atmosphere attached to the university. A bustling small college town stands to attract students who wish to live on campus and make Kent their home. After all, don’t we want to get rid of that “suitcase campus” label attached to our university?

Students, keep an eye out for updates about this plan and encourage city officials to give it the green light if the financing comes through. The university – and students – will benefit immensely.

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