Kent State University may ask the city of Kent to close and vacate a stretch of South Willow Street in Kent near the school's walkway extension project, but the Kent councilwoman representing the area said she's not sold on the idea.
KSU officials announced last week they have asked the city to conduct a traffic study of the area near the intersection of Main Street and Willow Street, near the school's Esplanade walkway extension, which runs from Hilltop Drive on the northwestern edge of campus across South Lincoln Street, South Willow Street and a section of East Erie Street the city has already closed and vacated. Gregg Floyd, KSU's vice president for finance and administration, has said the university may ask the city to close and vacate the stretch of South Willow Street between Main Street and College Avenue as part of the project.
"If the traffic study suggests that (South Willow Street) should be closed, we would make the request to the city," Floyd said.
Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer, who represents the residents of South Willow Street, said she sees potential problems with closing a section of the street.
"I would prefer (the city) doesn't close it," Shaffer said. "I think for safety reasons we need multiple ways into that neighborhood."
KSU owns all but one plot of land of South Willow Street between Main Street and College Avenue, buying the 17 other properties as part of the effort to secure the land on and around the Esplanade project. So far, the university has spent more than $9.7 million on real estate in the neighborhood.
The Esplanade extension, which is expected to open in the spring of 2013, will feature two parallel, park-like sidewalks running from the northwest edge of campus to downtown Kent.
Shaffer said she appreciates KSU's investment in the area, but noted that city residents do still live near the project and use South Willow Street.
"I think we need to give (the issue) a full hearing," she said. "We need to take into account safety and the needs of the residents."
Floyd said he wanted to stress the final fate of South Willow Street would rest with the city, but added that he thought closing the street might alleviate some traffic issues at the site where Main Street, Willow Street and Haymaker Parkway all come together.
"If you've been at that intersection, you can understand there are some dangerous elements when you've got traffic all converging right there," he said.
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Oh, yes, the KSU juggernaut should have another bite of Kent!