Small businesses and a $130 million partnership revitalize downtown Kent, OH

Mike Beder opened his first bar, Glory Days at the time, in a former deli in 2001 near the Star of the West Milling Co. flour mill in Kent.

He moved elsewhere in downtown and changed the name to the Water Street Tavern a couple years later.

When I first started, it was really only the bars and a couple other places that had any sorts of customers and foot traffic,” Beder said. “There just wasn’t much to offer students to come downtown as a whole.

Kent’s downtown, however, has since undergone a remarkable $130 million revitalization project — a true public, private partnership — that’s transformed the central business district into a bustling, modern, Main Street hub.

There are large, mixed-use complexes combining office, living and retail space, luxury apartments, new hotels and restaurants, a parking deck and bus garage and more than triple the total businesses.

Today, streets are filled with shoppers. Bars and restaurants draw professionals young and old.

Fresh blood is living in downtown proper. The city itself offers a true semblance of night life.

And business is booming, particularly for smaller enterprises.

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