City manager discusses plans for the future

Elise Franco

Paul Myers, one of the founders of the cafe; Lindsay Millard, a Kent State alumna; Jeanette Obelenus, a volunteer at the cafe and customer Scott Myatt of Kent listen as City Manager Dave Ruller addresses issues and future plans for the city of Kent. HEAT

Credit: Ron Soltys

Despite a low turnout at The Rock Cafe yesterday morning, Kent City Manager Dave Ruller eagerly addressed several topics concerning both the city of Kent and Kent State.

Ruller, who sat casually on a bar stool facing a crowd of about 15, said he had no formal agenda for the discussion and opened by talking about a recent survey taken by citizens of Kent. He noted that about half of responding residents said the restoration of downtown Kent is a top priority in their minds.

“We have a good downtown,” he said. “We think it’s the heart and soul of Kent. But it’s currently in transition and hasn’t rebounded yet.”

Ruller said Mary Gilbert, Kent Main Street Program manager, has already started working with businesses and small merchants to begin the process of restoring the essence of what citizens want downtown Kent to be.

“All the pieces are here,” Ruller said. “We just need to give it a little focus and a little push to bring it back together.”

Another major discussion point was the renovation of the old hotel located on the corner of Main Street and DePeyster Street, known to many as the Y2K building.

Kent State alumna Lindsay Millard said having this building restored in Kent will unite the city and bring everything together.

She spoke of the need to bring more culture to Kent and thought using a floor of the old building for art and galleries would be a perfect way to do so.

Ruller said the building will need $1.5 to $2 million of work put into it, and the owner, who is a private citizen, doesn’t have the finances to properly restore it.

“Even if he can’t afford to fully restore the hotel, if he keeps progressing maybe someone will show interest in taking over and finishing it,” he said.

An art gallery isn’t the only thing people are talking about putting into the building if the restoration is completed. Ruller said a restaurant on the first floor is a great possibility, as well as city offices or possibly even a hospital.

At this time he said the owner is having a hard time letting go of the idea of restoring the old hotel himself, even though many people are showing interest in the job.

“We are working with the owner as much as we can, but we’re not letting him off the hook,” Ruller said. “At some point maybe he’ll decide he’s not the right person for the building.”

Llyod, a 30-year resident of Kent who would not give his last name, commented to Ruller that the city needs to focus more on the community.

He said when he was in grade school he knew every member of the police force and although he realizes Kent has changed since then, it would only help the city to refocus on getting people to buy rather than rent property.

Ruller said right now rental is about 60 percent, which is partially due to the fact that Kent has become a university town. Even though this is true, he agreed with Llyod, adding that bringing the quality of houses up to code is important, whether they are owned or rented.

“The quality of neighborhoods has been an issue brought up in council several times, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s looked at more,” he said.

He also touched on the topic of a sin tax on alcoholic beverages. The tax would be directed toward public safety, and Ruller stated that he believed it would be a nickel or less.

At this point the tax is simply something that is being discussed by City Council members.

Contact public affairs reporter Elise Franco at [email protected]. Additional reporting by Bob Taylor and Amanda Stanley