I sent City Council an email earlier today that provided a good summary of the status of the downtown whitewater project and I thought it might be of interest to Blog readers as well, so here it is.
I wanted to let you know that in addition to all our RFQ work for downtown redevelopment more work is also continuing on further developing the river/white water park concept. Main Street has paid for the white water consultant to come back to Kent this week to do more on-site investigation of the opportunties available to expand public access and usage of the river across a range of activities, from walking along the banks to canoeing and even kayaking. The consultant is gathering maps, existing plans, photos, data, etc., as well as meeting with stakeholders during the day and hosting a public meeting tonight at 7 pm in the Firestation to better understand what would fit in the Kent community.
Based on the data collected and the input received from the stakeholders, the consultant will be in a position to finalize a scope of work for developing some river concept design options that we could then use to go after State grant funds that are available for these sorts of river improvements. Main Street and Parks and Recreation have already been coordinating with State agencies to give them a sense of how we hope to use this project to continue all the work we started with the Dam project and the initial feedback has been favorable from these agences.
With the Dam project we made a significant impact on improving the water quality, and the idea of this project is to open up access to the new and improved river so that residents, students and visitors can enjoy it all year long. From the City’s perspective I continue to see this eco-friendly outdoor-activity as a unique business opportunity for us to capitalize on in our region that is both a quality of life enhancement and is also a part of the economic revival of the downtown. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our river heritage than by having a plan for expanding river use in a way that connects the public investment we made to revitalize the West River Neighborhood to the redevelopment work we are now pursuing in downtown.
John Idone and I will share in the cost of the concept design phase ($20,000) and as part of that effort we will have the consultant present some initial draft concepts to look at with Council in February for comment and discussion. From that meeting we would hope to complete the concept phase by April with another consultant presentation and overview. We were originally going to wait to bring the consultant into Council in January to talk about the next phase of the project but in talking with the State grant agencies it became apparent that we needed to fast track this portion of the project somewhat so that if Council desires to pursue any of the options that are developed, we would have time to apply for the State grants that also open in April.
The concept design work will give us a list of improvements that we can consider, including ranges of costs, regulatory issues, etc. One of the tasks in the next phase also includes a review of the economic impact of the white water parks with a range of examples of new business activity and local spending spawned by these types of parks. The purpose of this data is to give us a better sense of the costs/benefits and the rate of return of the improvements should we eventually choose to pursue any or all of them.
As a side note, one of the developers from Columbus that attended our RFQ preconference last week said that they see ads for redevelopment projects all the time but the one thing that caught their eye for the Kent project was the reference to the river/white water park concept, which is exactly what we were hoping. And you may recall that the last time the consultant was in Kent we got very positive coverage in the Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon Journal which is the kind of press coverage we need as we work to generate more private investment interest in Kent.
I’ll keep you posted on our progress and I hope you can come to the meeting tonight.