It’s been about a year of study and a couple dozen steering and community meetings later the Kent Multi-Modal feasibility study — aka the Kent Central Gateway — seems to be nearing the end of the first phase of study. I wish I could say that it’s the end of study altogether and is ready to be built but projects of this magnitude have many layers between being an interesting idea and catching the bus. Still, the study has covered a lot of ground and it seems to have been has been a good interactive process with a number of public meetings around town and up on campus to try to capture both residential and student body comments. Here’s the latest status report.
With the majority of the public process complete the consultant will now try to tie up loose ends and narrow down the concept options to a more singular focus that best fits the community’s expectations. To me, the value of this project still remains in how well it synch’s up with and contributes to the overall downtown revitalization effort. This is not a stand-alone project and it has to not only carry it’s weight in transit passengers but it has to deliver economic value.
That’s essentially what the next steps will be — refining those transit details and defining the economic pro forma for the project. Since those are issues that are central to PARTA and the City’s missions, I think we’ll be the principle partners for this project as it moves forward — with the University as an interested stakeholder but not the lead agency.
As we wait for the next steps to unfold, here’s the public comments from the last round of meetings, with Scheme 1 (see below) identified as the preferred layout:
Public Comment Summary
Conceptual Layout Open Houses
May 19, 2008
The purpose of the open houses that occurred on Thursday, April 24, 2008 was to solicit public input regarding conceptual layouts for the Kent Central Gateway facility. Representatives from TranSystems, PARTA, Kent State University, and City of Kent held an open house at Kent State University’s Student Center building from 12:00 to 2:30 pm. A second open house was held at Kent Council Chambers from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Thirty-one people signed in at the Student Center, while 35 people signed in at the Council Chambers, for a total of 66 people. At least five people, and likely others, did not sign in, so it is possible that a total of 75-80 people may have attended for the day.
In general, the majority of the attendees supported the project. Many people believed that the proposed location was the best place to locate the facility within the study area. A majority of people were in favor of the pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Haymaker Parkway. The pedestrian and bicycle amenities, economic development opportunities, and environmental friendliness of the project were key issues that supporters talked about. A few people did not think the project was appropriate for a small town like Kent.
Based on verbal and written public input, the public favored “Scheme 1” over the other three options. Many people did not favor the bus access on Haymaker in Schemes 3 and 4 because it decreased the amount of recreation or open space and affected through traffic on Haymaker. The Erie Street parking access in Scheme 2 was undesirable to many people because it would impinge on pedestrian activity.
The public could submit comments to the study team until May 19, 2008. TranSystems received written comments and questions from 11 people, which are listed below and categorized by topic.
· No specific scheme stands out. – Michel P. Dussel
· The four schemes are not that different. – Janice Kelly
· Bus Access on Depeyster Street is on a sloped grade. Better to use Erie Street grade for buses. Depeyster Street would be a better location for automobiles. Any vehicular access on to Main Street should be mid block and limited. A study would need to be done to see what would work best, cars or buses. – Rick Hawksley
· Opinions on Schemes: – Jon Ridinger
o Scheme 1 – Likes:
_ Vehicle/bus entrances off E. Main & S. Depeyster and no entrances off E. Erie or Haymaker. Allows Erie to be more pedestrian and keeps through traffic moving on Haymaker.
_ Like the amphitheater design. It’s different and would provide a unique outdoor space that utilizes the natural slope of the land.
o Scheme 1 – Dislikes:
_ It’s my favorite of the four.
o Scheme 2 – Likes:
_ Most of what I like about Scheme 1.
o Scheme 2 – Dislikes:
_ The entrance for cars off E. Erie. I’d like to see E. Erie be more pedestrian, especially since it’s not connected to Haymaker.
o Scheme 3 – Likes:
_ The natural open space on the east end.
o Scheme 3 – Dislikes:
_ The entrance off Haymaker Parkway. It would be hard to get out (especially for a bus) without a new traffic light and I’d like to see Haymaker be more for through traffic.
o Scheme 4 – Likes and Dislikes:
_ Same as Scheme 3.
· Opinions on Schemes: – Ann Ward – Kent Environmental Council
o Scheme 1 – Likes:
_ Pedestrian-only access on Erie
_ Arena space for gathering
o Scheme 3 and Scheme 4 – Dislikes:
_ Less open space
_ Pedestrians close to bus drive
· Opinions on Schemes: – David Dix – Record-Courier
o Scheme 1 – Likes:
_ More greenspace. More inviting to pedestrians
o Scheme 1 – Dislikes:
_ I like it. I’m not sure about buses on E. Erie turning left but there is not a lot of bus traffic.
o Scheme 2 – Likes:
_ More greenspace. More inviting to pedestrians.
o Scheme 2 – Dislikes:
_ Not sure about buses on East Main.
o Scheme 3 – Likes:
_ I think this is inferior to Schemes 1 & 2.
o Scheme 3 – Dislikes:
_ Destroys greenspace. Less inviting to transit or bus
o Scheme 4 – Likes:
_ Favor bus on Main St
· Aim for a LEED certification and some way to showcase or demonstrate energy efficiency features. – Ann Ward – Kent Environmental Council
· Roof should be designed as a green roof, recreation area or be a solar energy caption area versus parking. – Rick Hawksley
Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge
· Bridge is key to success of businesses in the building. – Michel P. Dussel
· I like the bridge option providing it fits in with the architecture. I’d like to see Haymaker be more for through traffic. – Jon Ridinger
· A bike/pedestrian bridge is not practical. While it would be interesting sculpturally, changes to make the bypass more pedestrian friendly and an on grade plaza would be more beautiful and practical. We can’t manage to maintain and plow our sidewalks already, another costly bridge would not make sense. There is discussion of connecting a hotel and conference center across the bypass in another location. – Rick
· Would like to see provision for bike lockers, changing facilities, and lockers in any plan adopted. Include bike rentals for short trip usage, now used in European cities. – Ann Ward – Kent Environmental Council
· Bike facilities should have caged/locked areas and bike lockers. Design should provide for large amount of bike storage, and a bike repair/rental shop. Design should accommodate future expansion of bike area and decrease in car parking. – Rick Hawksley
· Would be interested to see how this will look architecturally once it gets past these first rounds. This could be a great asset to downtown and the area. – Jon Ridinger
· Critical element to all plans would be ease of traffic flow, bicycle and pedestrian safety. – Ann Ward – Kent Environmental Council
· My personal feeling about the schemes is that the size of Kent is too small for a need of this type of facility. If we were a 100 sq mile city I could see a need. The main client would be KSU students that wouldn’t mind the 3 block walk. I think that with proper parking and bike trails the need for this facility is unwarranted. While walking my ward and knocking on doors I interviewed approximately 200 people. My ward is the KSU area. This facility had zero importance to all but one person who I believe works for PARTA. My biggest fear is that we will pursue this at the expense of those that can’t afford to pay for it or use it. – John Kuhar – Kent City Council
· I saw the flyer for the Public Meeting that was held on April 24 th . Since the meeting has already occurred I will send comments as requested on the back page of the flyer. I graduated from KSU in 1973 and many times have walked from the S.E. end of campus to downtown Kent and back (day and night). So I am very familiar with the distance, scenery and concerns along the way. I have worked in Kent for the past 25 years and remain very familiar with the area and its needs. Although it has been discussed for years, it is imperative for the survival of the downtown business area that a marriage be arranged between KSU students and the downtown. I am in full agreement with the location of the proposed project (N.W. Gateway). I am sure you have recycled the benefits of the location several times, so I will not subject you to them again.
I do have a vision of how it might look. I am not familiar with any proposed details, so I will just throw a few of my thoughts out there. I envision a dedicated pathway gently winding from the N.W. corner of campus into the central downtown area. This pathway could be a paved road (preferably porous pavement) wide enough to accommodate multiple uses without feeling squeezed. Intersections (if necessary) would be minimal and strictly forbid the entrance of vehicles onto the pathway. It would be very pedestrian and bicycle friendly by incorporating dedicated lanes for these purposes. For the less active users, specifically dedicated transportation vehicles (something unique) would used for the round trip from campus to downtown. This transportation would be available at the hours well outside established business hours.
The pathway would be lined with people friendly sights (i.e. adequate decorative lighting, well marked boundaries with lots of flower beds and trees, decorative bricked areas). The sides of the pathway would be littered with small interesting shops to encourage the users to venture a little further. This could create additional business ventures for area retailers. A very important aspect to this project would be the installation of an adequate number of (circular) electronic kiosks strategically placed along the pathway, promoting the many activities occurring in both downtown Kent and the university. This would eliminate a major obstacle of communication between the two entities. It may also be beneficial to locate a few of these communication kiosks on campus (i.e. Student Center, Wellness Center, etc.) and a few downtown (i.e. gazebo area across from Ray’s). It seems that the newspapers (Record Courier and Kent Stater) do not adequately fulfill this need. I think the electronically active kiosk is a much bolder and “in your face” a communication method that will substantially fill this void. I look forward to this project’s completion……it would be a huge asset to the area. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. – Bob Brown
· Liquor licenses for bars/restaurants are essential. – Michel P. Dussel
· Buses are archaic. A monorail could be more agreeable. The key concerns are: use attractive architecture, and don’t tear up College Street. – Janice Kelly
· The project footprint is located in an area with historic Main Street houses, a steep grade and an odd corner that resulted from putting in the bypass in the 1970s. If this site is chosen, the very pedestrian-unfriendly intersection of main/willow and SR 59 should be redesigned as part of the project. Instead of removing historic houses and the corner retail properties, why not move the project to the south and use the historic right of way of Erie Street as part of the project. Since the Record Courier is moving, this site would be more prominent and protect the character of Main Street. It would be worthwhile to convert the houses into office buildings and small shops and move the fraternities somewhere else.
If a parking deck is built, it should be built with: Substantial floor to floor heights (14’ minimum) and Flat Slabs (not sloped), So it can converted to useful space at a later date. It should also have meters at each spot and be paid for by the users.
This project would be an ideal one to include a skateboard park. The locations of parks/amphitheatres/ etc are up against a busy, dirty highway. Unless traffic is slowed considerably, it would not be desirable space for parkland. Creating an attractive series of sculptures, including water features, could enhance a boulevard converted from the current highway. There is room for a planted median in current roadway.
Connecting and replanting an urban forest across the bypass/ highway was proposed 15 years ago. It is still a good idea. We need to get islands, and remove the fences, eliminate the limited access features of this stretch-reconnecting our community to extent feasible. Not sure what a Kiss and Ride has to do with this type of a facility. Better to focus on Bike and Ride. Facility should contain pedestrian arcades on all sides to encourage covered pedestrian activity and embrace the street. – Rick Hawksley
· I am a property owner in the area that is being considered for the Kent Central Gateway (area bounded by Main St. , Lincoln St., Summit St., and Water St.). I would like some detail as to the timing of the project and the means by which the group plans on acquiring the properties in the area. I was at the meeting last November and am still a bit confused as to the benefit of adding another public transportation system without taking one of the current ones away. The addition will only congest the traffic more than it currently is today. Any answers or feedback will be greatly appreciated. – Giovanni Bernardo
o Response : Our meetings last November helped the study team narrow down the proposed site, so it might be possible that your property will not be affected by the project. We propose that the facility be placed in the area bounded by Main St, Haymaker Parkway (S.R. 59), Erie St, and Depeyster St. This lies in the area called “Northwest Gateway” in the attached map. There could be a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across Haymaker in order to allow easier passage across Haymaker for those not driving automobiles, so the bridge could affect properties along Erie St on the east side of Haymaker as well. Note that at this point this is all just proposed during our planning study. There is no timeline right now beyond the fact that our planning study will be concluded this summer. Once our study is concluded, it is expected that a lead agency will be chosen (likely to be either City of Kent, Kent State University, or PARTA). Then it is expected that the lead agency will work with property owners to purchase the affected property. The Kent Central Gateway project will not be a part of a new public transportation system. The public transportation system in Kent and Portage County is and will continue to be run by PARTA, the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority. The Kent Central Gateway facility will provide a hub for PARTA’s bus routes, in which people could transfer buses or park their cars and board the bus. It will create an activity center which will include retail shops and other possibilities. The Kent Central Gateway facility will be a catalyst for further economic development along Main St and in Kent’s downtown, which will make the city of Kent a stronger community. The construction of the facility will increase the friendliness of the current infrastructure to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to easily and comfortably move throughout downtown and between the university and the riverfront. In the case of traffic, it is expected that the Kent Central Gateway project will have the opposite effect of what you propose – by emphasizing bus, bicycles, and pedestrians, less people will be reliant on their cars. In a time where gas prices are rapidly approaching $4/gallon and beyond, the Kent Central Gateway project is a vital improvement to Kent’s transportation infrastructure that will improve connections between Kent’s neighborhoods and businesses. If you have any further questions or comments this week, feel free to call 614-336-8480 and I am happy to answer your questions. Or if you provide a phone number, I can call you so that you are not charged for long distance. Thank you.
Online Materials Interestingly, I happened across a report from 2001 that seems to be the seed of the multi-modal concept and after reading it I had a much better appreciation for how it is we got to where we’re at today.
· I own a rental house on E. College and am interested in the concepts and project. I am working and would like to get information as to the ideas and proposals. I would suggest that you provide some written materials or graphic representations online for interested persons to view. – Dennis Dyer
o Response : Please see the attached invitation to come to an open house on Thursday April 24. The times span the day and evening so hopefully you’ll be able to make it. If not, feel free to call me at 614-336-8480 if you have any questions. At this time, I am not sure we are able to put anything online. But there is the possibility that I can email you materials after the April 24 open house. Thank you.
· I have a question about the information you are going to present tomorrow? Will the information that you are presenting be on line or can it be emailed so that some people that are out of town can have a look and ask questions? – Doug Fuller
o Response: The material will not be online. It is available for viewing at the Kent Council Chambers during normal business hours. Thank you.
I recently came across a report from 2001 that seems to be the origin of the multi-modal concept. After reading it I felt like I had a much better appreciation for how we got to where we’re at today. Here’s that report if your interested as well: Download Concept Report