From Sleepy to Commercial City

From Sleepy to Commercial City

The little college town of Kent is teeming with students and charm. In recent years development has been pushing for more updates leaving the downtown area looking almost unrecognizable from before. Now the once sleepy downtown area is increasingly becoming a hotspot for commercial development.

Out with the Old

I recently sat down with one of the people responsible for the new changes, Kent’s Community Development Director Bridget Susel, to talk about Kent’s goals. Susel divulged that Kent is looking to usher in more commercial projects, such as selling the old courthouse building in the heart of downtown Kent on South Water street. As well as selling the old Buffalo Wild Wings and Muggers buildings to further progress in the area. The fate of these buildings in particular will be decided at the end of March.

Room for Improvement

However, even with the success of downtown Kent the community development department isn’t stopping there. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 57 percent of Portage County residents, including students, are living below the area median income. That equates to a household of four living off an annual income of roughly $31,050 and lower. With this information the other focus for development is residential. In coordination with HUD,  the CDD offers a number of programs and grants to help homeowners keep their home up to code and improve living conditions.

For programs of this nature, I spoke with the Grants and Neighborhood Programs Coordinator, Dan Morganti. Morganti runs programs such as the Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation program. The program, once approved, offers the homeowner a loan with a deferred payment until the property is sold or transferred.

Looking to the Future

Cleaning house doesn’t just stop there, however, the CDD has taken to demolishing 13 vacant homes since 2010 and since then building two homes in their place. The hope is to keep that land open for development or future homes.

Susel also takes a key role in keeping relations between Kent State University and the city always working in conjunction to further improvement and expansion. Once a week representatives from the University and the city meet to hear new ideas. As of late, an idea to create a new Public Health building for the city to work with the University’s College of Public Health and College of Architecture students to have real-world experience and service the community.

All About that Beat

As a Kent State student I have really begun to love this community and its mix of small town history and its continuing growth to being more up-to-date. With the increasingly prosperous downtown area, the University as a mecca of education, and the Cuyahoga River (with a hike and bike trail) running through the city, Kent is filled with character.

Even more interesting the downtown areas leads one to believe the city is filled with well to do residents when in fact most residents barely just make ends meat. I’d also like to highlight the different businesses Kent is home to and fun spots the locals enjoy. I’m definitely looking forward to the city of Kent as my beat.

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