Students divided on future of downtown Kent

Jenna Staul

From local businesses to bars, revamping options for Main Street vary

The Pufferbelly and the Flower Mill, located on Franklin Avenue, are icons of downtown Kent. Some students want to see more local businesses and bars move into store fronts downtown. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Junior German major Alex Hogue can’t remember the last time he visited downtown Kent – and he’s not the only one.

“I don’t really know what’s down there,” said Hogue. “I probably go there maybe three times a semester.”

City officials are hoping to give students like Hogue a reason to become re-acquainted with downtown Kent. According to city of Kent’s Web site,, The Main Street Kent Program is a project underway to revitalize downtown Kent by replacing vacant storefronts with new businesses, restoring rundown buildings and giving an economic boost to the area. But will the plan succeed in bringing Kent State students off campus and into the refurbished town?

Elizabeth Eisamen, a senior political science major, said she feels Kent needs to foster its own unique identity to bring prosperity back to its streets.

“There are a lot of businesses I’d like to see,” Eisamen said. “It needs local businesses, not chain stores. Local people should try to bring in their ideas. I’d like to see more specialty shops, too.”

Others would also like to see independent business thrive in Kent. Sophomore hospitality major Michael Mitchell said he is tired of corporate retail outlets dominating town landscapes.

“I want to see more locally owned stuff,” said Mitchell. “Wal-Marts and K-Marts – we already have enough stuff like that. It would be nice to see some locally owned restaurants and things like that.”

But can small business flourish in Kent in an era where Super Wal-Marts provide one-stop shops for masses of consumers? Many, like Mary Korda, a sophomore photo illustration major, are skeptical.

“I really don’t think small businesses will last here,” said Korda. “I’d rather drive ten minutes and just go to Super Wal-Mart.”

Korda said she is unsure about Kent’s need for revitalization. “I don’t really think there is a need to make it some huge thing,” said Korda. “A lot of people don’t have cars. I know when I lived on campus I didn’t venture out too far.”

While university offerings like Rosie’s Diner and the Student Center give students reason to stay off Kent’s streets, many hope the Main Street Kent Program will usher in new businesses that appeal to the town’s college population.

Math education major Colleen Corrigan hopes this comes in the form of more nightlife and social venues.

“Right now I just go down there for concerts and stuff or to go out with my family when they come to visit,” said Corrigan. “But I would like to see more bars and stuff. There should be more of a bar scene like at OU.”

But Rich Cline, a junior political science major, argues that the bar scene already dominates downtown Kent. “I’m not into the drinking scene and there’s nothing to do downtown for non-drinkers,” said Cline.

While plans to enliven Kent will not be complete until 2011, Eisamen and other Kent State students look forward to seeing the end result. “I’ve seen pictures of how the town used to be and it’s dwindled since then,” said Eisamen. “But students want to get off campus. If there’s stuff to do, they’ll go.”

Contact features correspondent Jenna Staul at [email protected].