Lefton sees need for more ‘beautiful spaces’

Ben Wolford

Landscaping plans in works for Kent Campus

Risman Plaza and other areas on Kent Campus will go under the shovel within the next decade, guided by President Lester Lefton’s landscaping credo, “less concrete, more trees.”

“We want to have some beautiful spaces,” Lefton said. “The Tiananmen Square approach is a little hard and cold.

To combat the austere features of Risman Plaza, Manchester Field and Centennial Green, Kent State’s facilities planning and operations department hired a consultant as part of its 10-year master plan to revamp the landscaping.

Turning the current Small Group Housing site into recreation fields and upgrading Summit Street are also parts of the plan.

A price tag has not been placed on most of the projects, but the recreation fields at Small Group are already funded under the $2 million cost of demolishing the buildings.

Changes to Summit Street, which will cost about $11 million, have been funded mostly by state and federal grants. Kent State will split the estimated $1.1 million not covered by grants with the city of Kent.

Those areas are priorities only because they’re already funded, but Lefton would like to see swift changes to Risman Plaza.

“This year’s freshman class will see a very different Risman Plaza before they graduate,” he said. “I’m hoping to do it sooner rather than later.”

The landscape architecture firm, JJR of Ann Arbor, Mich., has completed only preliminary sketches.

The university has given them liberties to reconfigure the plaza, said Tom Euclide, executive director of facilities planning and operations.

“We have left the possibility open to the consultant that we could take out the fountain and replace it with some other feature,” he said. “We’ll add possibly some other artwork to the area.”

He said the university wants to make the barren space cozy, without affecting its faculty as a large gathering place.

“Essentially we want to take what’s a very hard landscape and try to soften it with possibly some seating areas, water features and smaller areas that people can feel like they can meet in a small group without being in a large plaza,” Euclide said.

As for Manchester Field and Centennial Green, the empty fields behind the student center, Euclide wants them to become “not just a space between the buildings.”

That could mean planting trees or other landscaping features.

Centennial Green will still be kept open for recreational use, he said. But the rugby cleats are rough on the turf, and grass is difficult to grow.

“I think it’s going to end up that the thing we need to do is put in some irrigation systems,” Euclide said.

Two more recreation fields will be added when the eight Small Group buildings are flattened. The idea is to bridge those fields to the Allerton Sports Complex and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center with pathways for bikes and pedestrians.

Summit Street will be altered to decongest the traffic.

“We will be adding turning lanes, we might be adding bike lanes, but we wouldn’t be adding another lane of traffic,” Euclide said. “(The contractor) is coming up with ways on how we can enhance that gateway into the campus.”

The image of Kent State plays a big role in all the beautification plans.

“We think that would aid in our recruitment of students,” he said. “It would facilitate the learning process for students if they had places where they felt comfortable sitting down in the classic style – under a tree with a book.”

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].