by Halena Sepulveda and Samantha Wright
With close-knit neighborhoods, trees in almost every yard, and residents walking on most streets, the City of Kent’s Ward 6 looks like any other small community.
Each house looks a little bit different, with some houses displaying a more modern appearance than others. The neighborhoods are surrounded by businesses, churches and schools—Ward 6 is home to a variety of religions, races, and incomes.
There are four churches located within the ward, all worshiping different Christian denominations. There is also Masjid of Kent, a mosque located on Crain Avenue that holds prayer services open to both Muslim and non-Muslim members of the community.
Along with its diversity of religious beliefs, Ward 6 features a variation of businesses that play a key role in the ward’s economic intake and growth. The area is home to recognizable fast food and chain restaurants such as Hibachi Express and Starbucks, but also has sit down restaurants like Pho King, which is located on East Main Street.
Don Schjeldahl, owner of the new North Water Brewing Company located on the corner of Lake Street and North Water Street, pushed back the brewery’s opening by a few months due to the COVID-19 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 the pandemic,” he said.
Once the CDC allowed masks to come off in May, Schjeldahl said, 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.”
Residents of Ward 6 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 said the city is always clean, which she likes. Her dorm is right next to a dining hall which she loves because it’s convenient.
Although most residents agree that ward six is a community where they feel safe—one of the top concerns of many residents and council members is the amount of traffic in the area.
“There’s a lot less gas stations here,” laughed 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 said this was one thing about Ward 6 she immediately noticed compared to her hometown in Toledo.
One resident is 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,” said Laura Caparso, a five-year resident of Ward 6.
The city plans to create a new entry point for the university as it renovates the East Main Street Corridor, 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 AND WHAT ELSE?. 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,” said Gwen Rosenberg, council member at large for the city of Kent. “To undertake something of that scope is really exciting for our city.”
After the recent remodel of Crain Street, Rosenberg said residents of the ward want 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 said.
Residents of Ward 6 and the city of Kent were able to attend meetings with the city’s engineer, Jim Bowling, and stakeholders to envision what the renovations of the East Main Street corridor could look like going forward.
Rosenberg said there are plans to add 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 6.”
The number of residents from Ward 6 who attended these meetings helps assure their concerns are being heard by council members.
Rosenberg said the remodeling of East Main Street is expected to have a positive impact on the residents of Ward 6 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.”