Jerry’s Diner gets torn down to pave way for the future

Kelsey Henninger

Demolition is part of development effort

The city of Kent demolished the old diner on the corner of Water and Erie streets Thursday as plans for downtown redevelopment projects continue.

This site, known as Jerry’s Diner, is one of several properties purchased by the city along Erie, Haymaker and Depeyster streets, said Economic Development Director Dan Smith.

The city is working with a developer to create a hotel and conference center along with adding retail development and parking facilities on this site, he said.

He estimates the downtown redevelopment project will cost about $40 million.

Ward 5 Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said the demolition signifies the city’s ability to move forward.

“Taking down the diner is a catalyst for so many positive developments for Kent,” she said. “It is a symbol of transformation.”

Sue Nelson, owner of Sue Nelson Designs, which is located across the street from the old diner said the diner was quite an institution “but in the last decade it has fallen to ruins.”

Smith agreed and said the building was a “blighted eye-sore.”

“When the city gained control of the site, they improved the whole area by taking it down,” he said.

Nelson said she remembers going to the diner when she was in high school and college.

“Everybody would stop by the diner” she said. “It’s kind of sad to see it go.”

Sandy Halem, president of the Kent Historical Society, said a building that had deteriorated to the point the diner had is no real loss for the city.

“If the diner had been great and bustling as it was 20 years ago, it would be sad that a good business no longer would be operating,” Halem said. “But it has been out of commission so long. It’s a dinosaur.”

Mike Zeone, who is known for historic diner preservations, bought the diner for $50 from the city. He removed a portion of the diner in December. The city then announced it would demolish the rest since the historic portion had been removed.

Contact public affairs reporter Kelsey Henninger at [email protected].