Remodeling the City of Kent’s Ward Six

by Halena Sepulveda and Samantha Wright

With close-knit neighborhoods, trees in almost every yard, and residents walking on most streets, the sixth ward of the City of Kent looks like any other small community. 

Each house has a unique look, with certain houses displaying a more modern appearance than others. The neighborhoods are surrounded by businesses, churches, and schools and ward six is home to many different religions, races, and incomes. 

There are four churches located within the ward, all with different Christian denominations. There is also a Mosque located on Crain Avenue known as the Masjid of Kent that holds prayer services open to both Muslim and non-Muslim members of the community. 

Along with a variety of religious beliefs, ward six comprises a variation of businesses that play a key role in the ward’s economic intake and growth. The area is home to common fast food and chain restaurants such as Hibachi Express and Starbucks, but it also has sit down restaurants like Pho King which is located on East Main Street. 

Like every other community across the nation the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted ward six and the businesses in Kent suffered in many ways when it came to the pandemic. COVID caused significant changes to lives of community members at work, school, and even their incomes .

Don Schjeldah, owner of the North Kent Water Brewery located on the corner of Lake Street, had to push back the brewery’s opening by a few months due to the shut down. “It finally was able to open in November of 2020 at the peak of the pandemic. The owner of the brewery, “We had big delay in getting our liquor license you know we had some delays in getting a building permit, delays in getting our occupancy and our health permit… so it was really nobody’s fault, that was just the pandemic,” he says.

Schjeldah said that once the CDC allowed masks to come off in May,  the brewery’s business got a lot better. “We have a pretty good following from the neighborhood that treat our brewery like it’s their local hangout and that’s exactly what we wanted to do.” Now that the vaccine is available, the city encourages members of ward six and the other wards of Kent to receive a vaccination to keep the community safe around them. 

Residents of ward six gave mixed reviews on the food of Kent. One resident named Lizzie who is a freshman at Kent State wants more food places open on campus during the weekends. She says the residents of Kent are cool and she would only change the food choices.

 Another resident named Maddie who is also a freshman at Kent State says she feels safe on campus even at night. She says the city is always clean which she likes. Her dorm is right next to a dining hall which she loves the convenience of. 

Although most residents agree that ward six is a community where they feel safe, one of the top concerns many residents and council members admit of ward six is the amount of traffic that residents experience. 

“There’s a lot less gas stations here,” laughs Sophia Mazella, a freshman at Kent State University. “I know that’s so weird but where I’m from there’s like a million gas stations on every corner.” She says this was one thing about ward six that she immediately noticed compared to her hometown in Toledo. 

Some residents are concerned about students cutting through their streets to get to the university while others are more concerned about the limited parking available. 

“At least, on my street I feel like my kids are safe riding their bikes and such but I know like once you get downtown it’s a little difficult to park,” says Laura Caparso, a five year resident of ward six. 

By redoing Main Street the city plans to create a new entry point for the university while also creating more space for the public to walk. Pedestrian safety is a top priority for the ward and there are plans to widen the sidewalks. The goal behind the remodeling of Main Street is to reduce traffic flow and to make it safer for the pedestrians and residents of the area. 

“The university is chipping in some property so that we can have the sidewalks widened for the ease of pedestrians and for safety,” Says at large councilwoman Gwen Rosenberg. “To undertake something of that scope is really exciting for our city.”

After the recent remodel of Crain Street, residents of the ward would like to see more construction that will allow for quicker and safer transportation while also keeping the community a place that feels like home.

“it kind of looks more like you’re entering into a Neighborhood,” Rosenberg says.

Residents of ward six and the city of Kent have had the opportunity to attend meetings with the city’s engineer Jim Bowling and stakeholders to envision what the renovations of the Main Street corridor could look like going forward.

Rosenberg says there are plans of adding new traffic circles downtown along with the addition of sidewalks. “This is gonna be a huge, huge project that’s definitely going to impact ward six.”

The amount of residents from ward six that have attending these meetings have helped to assure that their voices are being heard by their council members and that their opinions are being validated by their community.

Rosenberg says that the remodeling of Main Street is anticipated to have a positive impact on the residents of ward six and the city of Kent as a whole. “The university of course is listening and our city engineer is listening to have a project that will really beautify that part of town, it’ll reduce some of the traffic flow, and make it safer for pedestrians.”