Last week, City staff were joined by a couple dozen property owners, business owners, and residents that share a desire to see North Water Street (between Main Street and the Fairchild Avenue Bridge) become a more vibrant and engaging part of downtown Kent.
For years, that stretch of North Water Street has cornered the market for funky, artsy, coffee house vibe — which is great — but with all of the success in the other parts of downtown, there’s an increased interest to amplify that vibe and let that part of downtown more fully develop and celebrate it’s identity.
The Star of the West flour mill has officially closed their mill operations and that’s changed the dynamics of the street — making it feel less industrial, with more room for people scaled activity centers along the street.
The question is — what activity centers should that be?
People scaled activity can range the gamut from expanded coffee shops, to park-lets, bike lanes, public art and landscape upgrades — and anything else that coffee fueled creatives can think up.
That’s the point of the “Better Block” initiative that is gaining traction in the Mill District neighborhood — to invite the owners and residents to sit around a table and generate ideas for how to personalize and better animate the block.
The City is helping to facilitate these meetings and we’ve submitted a $1.3 million grant application to upgrade the public infrastructure in the corridor in order to better enable those local ideas to be possible.
Better Block has a great track record for focusing local talent in communities around the country — including in Akron — so we’re hoping there’s enough local interest to host an official Better Block event later this year.