Saturday, April 23, 2011

Downtown Kent updates

I actually started writing this yesterday talking about how I hadn't been able to get new pictures of the progress in downtown Kent since this past fall when I took pictures just as demolition work was starting.  Well, today ended up being a beautiful day perfect for going downtown (I walked there from home) and getting pictures.  The Earth Day festival known as "Who's Your Mama" was going on along East Main Street, so there were quite a few people downtown for that.  The weather was partly cloudy and windy, but around 72 degrees.  I had a wonderful time just getting out and walking!

The demolition ended up being in phases. The block bordered by South Water, East Erie, South DePeyster, and Haymaker was cleared first. A few weeks later, the old Record-Courier office was torn down. That was done before the winter really set in, so for the last several months we've had this big open area downtown (except for the little green shelter for the gas line) kinda waiting for something to happen. Meanwhile, PARTA had to go through some legal wrangling to get the last property for their facility, which they got in the last few weeks.  The last building they need to tear down is a former auto parts warehouse.  Before construction can begin on the new hotel, a 3-story brick house on East Erie Street behind where the Record-Courier office will also need to be torn down.

Above is a picture from September just as demolition had started.  The picture below is today from roughly the same angle.  A point of reference is the two trees with the lamp post in between them on the left of both pictures.  The construction in the background is Acorn Alley II.
This is the corner of East Erie and South Water Streets.  Previously a small diner was here and a hardware store.   Below is what the view will look like when construction is finished. (edit: I had the blocks mixed up when I first wrote this in 2011.  The Davey Tree building seen below was planned for and built on the opposite corner--corner of S. Water and Haymaker Parkway--from the block pictured above.  The building built on this site--the corner of S. Water and E. Erie--was mainly for Ametek and looks similar). It should start in the next few weeks.
Even with all the demolition of the first block, what's been interesting is the next expansion of the highly successful Acorn Alley has gotten off to a much quicker pace. Demolition of the buildings on that site was in late December and construction started soon after. Despite some delays because of our long and cold winter, the steel superstructure is already up and the retaining walls have been up probably for a month or so already. It is scheduled to be done by this Summer. PARTA's new facility, the Kent Central Gateway, is supposed to be done late next year. Because South DePeyster Street is partially closed, I really don't drive by the site much, so I'm not sure how much actual construction work has started. It doesn't seem like much from a distance. The block that had demolition first will be one of the last to finally have construction commence. The final pieces to the funding puzzle were put together last week when Davey Tree and Ametek signed formal leases to move office personnel to the development that will be bound by South Water, East Erie, South DePeyster, and Haymaker. With the announcement of Davey and Ametek, 8 restaurant tennants were announced. They're all local franchises, so for some people they will be familiar, while for others not from the Akron or Cleveland areas they will be new. For me, most are ones I've heard of or been to once or twice, but not very often because they're not close by. Acorn Alley will be bringing 4 restaurants of its own. Suddenly downtown Kent is becoming less of a bars-only area, not that our bars are that bad (especially Rays Place!!).

Current view from the corner of East Erie and South DePeyster Streets.  That old hotel in the background is looking worse every time I see it!
The same view when it's all done!
The center is where the pedestrian alley will come out to the street.  The stairs have not been poured yet nor has the steel skeleton been built for the other building on the left!  The highly-successful Acorn Alley I can be seen in the background.
Looking east at the new site from the parking lot of the warehouse that still needs to be torn down.

The last remaining house on East Erie right next to the dead end at Haymaker Parkway.  I have no idea when it will be demolished.  I took some pictures of it so there was some kind of record of its existence!
I'm hoping construction doesn't remove this fire hydrant so I have somewhat of a frame of reference when it's all done.  Everything else will change, including the part where I stood to take the picture.  The warehouse can be seen in the center (it extends much further back).  The hillside will be cleared and largely excavated.  I took several pictures of it.  Acorn Alley II construction can be seen on the left.
Corner of East Erie and South DePeyster opposite the Acorn Alley construction.  Below is the approximate view of the new hotel from the same angle.

Corner of South DePeyster and Haymaker Parkway.  Below is the approximate view of the new hotel and conference center from the same angle.  The warehouse I mentioned previously can be seen in the background along with the last remaining house and the hill where the PARTA facility will be built.
This is a site plan for everything except Acorn Alley.  The large gray building on the top right is the PARTA Kent Central Gateway, immediately south of it is the hotel and conference center, with the Davey/Ametek development immediately west of the hotel.  The view posted above of the Davey building is the top left corner (northwest corner) of that block.  
While I was downtown today, I also got a picture of some facade improvements at Dominicks bar, which is right next to Ray's Place and across the street from the historic train depot (which we know better today as the Pufferbelly restaurant).  A year ago they announced they would be updating their facade to help it fit in better with the other buildings around it.  From the looks so far, I really like it.  It's certainly an improvement from where it had been.  My goodness!
Looking south down Franklin Avenue today.  The white areas are the second floor of Dominick's.  Below is the picture from the Record-Courier article showing what it used to look like.  See what I mean?!?

All the architectural drawings and renderings come from the Kent Ohio Development Facebook page.  The renderings from Pizzuti (the company developing the hotel & conference center) are marked, but they also came from the same Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


April 5, 2011
Page B3
I was finally able to do something that I've been wanting to do for years and years: sing the national anthem at a Cleveland Indians game.  As I blogged last month, I was pretty excited about it all and I've been wanting to do that since I was in probably 6th grade.  My chance finally came, and I hope it's not my last one.  I was very happy with how the singing went, which is no small task for me.  I'm definitely someone who is rather critical of my own singing, but I also know when I have done well.  As I was finishing the song, I was practically floating I was so happy, but my upbringing kept my emotions under wraps to a degree.  In looking at the pictures, I never burst out in a full smile.  Not sure why, but I didn't.  I'm not someone that gets overly emotional all that often, but I was near that point when I was about done singing.  It was just an intense feeling of happiness; accomplishing something I had always wanted to do along with realizing that I didn't blow the opportunity.  It's one thing to be cocky and arrogant; it's another to be confident and know when you totally nailed something like that.  There was an interesting echo to deal with too.  It didn't affect me staying in tune, but it did keep me from changing the tempo.  The echo was probably a good second behind me, so far different than when I have sung in a gym like the MAC Center at Kent State.  

The whole experience was a lot of fun.  I was glad to have my sister and parents at the game.  Not only did we get great (FREE) seats, but also free parking in the garage adjacent to Progressive Field.  Normally when we go to games on our own, we have seats much further away (cheaper!) and end up parking several blocks away for at least $5, sometimes more.  The only downsides to the evening were the weather and the attendance.  The weather was pretty cold (gametime temperature was right around 40), so it made for a "memorable" game.  It felt more like when I watch late-season football than baseball.  I can't remember the last time I wore my coat, gloves, and winter hat to a baseball game.  I remarked the last time I was at Progressive Field I was basically wearing the same thing for Snow Days back in December.  Oh well; weather in Northeast Ohio like this is nothing new, though it's been a colder Spring than usual, even for here.  The weather, combined with the Indians' not playing so well the past few years and many fans' unhappiness with the owner pushed attendance way low.  The attendance for my game was 9,025, the second-smallest crowd in the history of Progressive (formerly Jacobs) Field.  The night before was the smallest crowd of around 8,700.  I'd always hoped the stadium would be full or mostly full, but it was not meant to be.  Maybe next time.  When I chose April 5, I figured having the Red Sox in town would bring more fans in, but that didn't really happen.  The Red Sox didn't bring as many as usual and neither did we.

Me with Mom and Katie...Mom's first trip to
Progressive Field!
Despite the cold and sparse attendance, we all still had a great time.  It definitely made for a memorable night on many levels.  Seeing myself and my name on the scoreboard was pretty cool.  I noticed in the pictures Dad took that my name was also on the auxiliary ribbon scoreboards around the park.  Later that evening I was editing Wikipedia and another editor mentioned he had seen my name on the scoreboard in the background of the Indians' pre-game show on SportsTime Ohio (STO).  Awesome!   The game was fun too as the Tribe beat the Red Sox 3-1, which keeps a streak alive of my teams winning the game I sing at!  I know it's all coincidence, but still pretty cool.  I also enjoyed seeing parts of the ballpark I have never seen before like the area underneath the lower deck.  I've been going to Indians games at Progressive Field for 16 years and there is so much I haven't experienced yet!

Oh, and the article I have up at the top?  It's an interesting read.  The Indians sent me a press sheet to fill out, and then they sent something to the Record-Courier about it.  I had already emailed the editor that I would be singing and he said they'd have a reporter call, but nothing ever came of it.  I can tell from this article they had some of what I wrote to the Indians plus they came here to my blog and got some information and the picture (it's a crop of my picture here on the top right).  It's mostly correct, last year's performance at the Aeros game was my first time singing for a professional sporting event.  Singing at the Indians game was my first time singing for a major league (and Major League Baseball) event as the Aeros game was minor league baseball.  The two times I sang at the KSU-Akron games were 2008 and 2009.  I find it interesting that being a graduate of KSU is always mentioned, but not the fact that I am actually from Kent.

On the huge scoreboard just before singing.  After 16 years of
Indians games I finally made it onto the scoreboard!  What's
funny is later in the game we were all on the scoreboard when they
did random crowd shots!
Gives you a good idea how empty it was (made for an interesting echo).
You can see my name on the far right on the ribbon scoreboard!!
Picture the Indians took.  They had a photographer who took
several shots while I was singing and I selected this one
Singing on the scoreboard and looking all stretched out!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Conference observations

Interior of the 21,000-seat Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
I found this picture online a long time ago, so if you know its source,
please let me know!
These are just some general thoughts I had while watching General Conference this past weekend.  They're as random as they can be and it won't surprise me if I add more later.  For those of you not familiar with General Conference, it's a series of meetings held every 6 months in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where the various church leaders address the church membership as a whole.  It is structured into 5 sessions of 2 hours each (3 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday) with the 3rd session on Saturday for the Priesthood (men ages 12 and up).  Conference always happens the first weekends of April and October.  Since 2000, it has originated from the 21,000-seat Conference Center in Salt Lake City and before that (from 1867-1999) it was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.  For those of us out here, the best part of Conference is that on Sunday, we don't start until noon (10 AM Mountain Time) instead of our normal 9 AM start (well, for our congregation at least).  Instead of normal church services, we watch the broadcast.  In Utah and areas where there are lots of members, Conference is available over regular TV and radio (except the Priesthood session, which is shown only at church buildings).  Out here, anyone who gets the BYU channel (channel 867 on AT&T Uverse!) can watch all but the Priesthood session at home, which is what I do.  Many also will watch Conference at the church building in Rootstown even though they can easily watch at home either on TV or on the Internet.  For many it's a matter of necessity, but for others who can watch at home (like my sister and grandparents), it's a matter of tradition and getting together with everyone.  I'd imagine too some feel there are too many distractions at home.  Me, I love being able to watch without having to get into Sunday clothes and being able to have some good food while I watch! :)    Anyway, on to my random observations.

  • As I remarked on Facebook, President Eyring gave the wrong year of the Teton Dam Flood.  He said 1966 and it was 1976.  I want to give him a pass here, but he was President of Ricks College at the time (Ricks College is now BYU-Idaho) so was living in or near Rexburg, one of the hardest hit towns in the flood.  Oh well...maybe he just misread it or remembered wrong?
  • Not to pick on President Eyring, but I've noticed A) he cries at least once (usually more) in every talk he gives and B) when he starts to get emotional, he always raises his hand about halfway and then moves it to emphasize whatever he is saying, usually an up-and-down motion maybe 2 or 3 times.  Not saying it's good or bad, it's just something I noticed consistently (he usually speaks twice over the duration of the conference).
  • I reeeeeealy enjoy President Uchtdorf's talks.  He's become my favorite speaker.  Not only are they interesting, but because he grew up in Germany, he has tons of stories that I can better relate to in relation to being in an area where church members are few and far-in between.  
  • Going along with that point, while I definitely enjoy many of the stories from our various speakers, many times it's hard to relate to stories that involve neighborhood-sized wards (the norm in Utah) where everyone around you is also LDS and the temple is a few blocks away. 
  • I've found I'm warming up to Elder Bednar as an Apostle and speaker.  I was not excited at all when he got called as I never really cared for him while he was president of BYU-Idaho.  He seemed far more concerned with rules and tradition over logic and fairness.  When he was called as an apostle, I knew that everything he ever said at BYU-Idaho would somehow get canonized (which it did) simply because he was, as someone said once "an apostle in training" (excuse me while I HURL).  Anyway, I have enjoyed his last few talks and yes, he still has PERFECT hair!  It's amazing, not a strand out of place!
  • I was disappointed that no mention was made of the 175th anniversary of the Kirtland Temple dedication (March 27, 1836).  Several mentions were made of the 75th anniversary of the Church Welfare program (which is an awesome program, by the way since it not only helps people, but teaches people to help themselves!), but the only mentions of the Kirtland Temple were not in reference to that event.  My pessimistic side thinks it's because Church Welfare is headquartered in Utah (so it's right in front of most of the speakers) and the Kirtland Temple is 2,000 miles away in Ohio (and of course not owned by the Church) so no one really thinks about it.  That's sad to me seeing that it was a highly significant milestone of development in LDS theology.  As a side note to support my pessimism, there was quite a bit of commemoration all over the Church in 1993 for the 100th anniversary of the Salt Lake Temple's dedication.  
  • Easter was mentioned once (well, I only heard it mentioned once).  I wonder how much mention Christmas would get if Conference were around Christmas?  In terms of Christian doctrine, Easter is THE most significant holiday, yet too often it seems to garner very little mention (certainly not what Christmas gets) in the Church and in Christianity in general.  As much as I love Christmas, Easter is a far more important occasion to remember and celebrate in my opinion!  For goodness sakes, we're celebrating the triumph over death!
  • I noticed a LOT of people say "beloved" before mentioning President Monson ("our beloved prophet, President Monson").  That was true with President Hinckley too.  While I certainly don't disagree, I'm a firm believer that saying or doing something too much causes it to lose its meaning (like giving everything a standing ovation makes it a lot less special!).  I love President Monson too, but I certainly don't know him well enough to say "beloved" like I would for a family member or close friend (though in all honesty, I really don't say beloved much at all...seems kind of archaic).  Ya know?  Oh well, I just think it's a tad overused, like one person says it and it becomes the "thing to say".  
  • I'm SO glad I can watch Conference at home.  Not having to get dressed up and drive 20 minutes to the church is nice.  I'm also not too big anymore on actually going to Conference in Salt Lake City.  I have been to 3 live sessions in my life.  I'm very glad I was able to go, but in the end it was a huge hassle to get downtown and I had some less-than-wonderful experiences when I have gone, at least the last 2 I was at.  It's kind of a "been there, done that" thing now, but I do recommend doing it at least once if you ever can.  Just seeing the Conference Center is worth it! 
  • I really enjoyed Sister Silvia Allred's talk about service.  Too often it seems the sisters give talks that are directed at only the women or children, but hers was all-encompassing and had a great message.  AND, because she has a heavy Spanish accent, I really had to pay close attention so I didn't miss anything.  It was also nice to hear more faith-promoting stories from outside Utah!
  • I definitely felt like Elder Holland's talk was directed at me.  Every Conference seems to have talks that seem to speak directly at you.  I totally got what he was saying, but I still stand by my feelings after President Monson's Priesthood talk.  I'll explain a little more on that later in this.  
  • Oh, I saw one of my old directors from BYU-Idaho on TV during the 2nd Saturday session.  He was directing the combined choir from BYU-Idaho.  Let's just say seeing him didn't exactly bring back a flood of good memories; memories related directly to him and memories of my time at BYU-Idaho period.  I think if I had seen my other 2 directors that I had there, more pleasant memories would've been more forthcoming.  The choir did sound really good though and was very colorful!
  • I won't really go into my feelings about President Monson's remarks about single, marriage-aged men here.  That is an entire blog in and of itself.  He wasn't the only person to bring it up, but his comments bothered me the most.  I'll leave it at the fact that I'm not concerned about the doctrine behind his remarks, I'm more concerned about the prejudice in many parts of the Church (particularly in Utah and southern Idaho) about single guys who are in my age group.    
  • One thing I did notice in my discussion on Facebook after Conference was that because I wasn't happy with certain things that were said, some of my friends interpreted that to mean I felt like false doctrine had been spread or that I misunderstood the message.  Nope.  I simply disagreed with how it was presented and I felt a stereotype was being perpetuated.  I also find it interesting that if you ask pretty much any church member if they think the Prophet is infallible, they'll say no.  At the same time, if you question something the Prophet or Apostles (heck ANYONE at Conference) said in Conference  you get arguments from a lot of members, like you're somehow less faithful.  If everything said by the Prophet is straight from God himself, wouldn't that make him infallible?  (yes, actually it would) In the end, yes, I believe he's called of God, but being called of God does not remove someone's humanity or ability to think for themselves.      
  • I enjoyed hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing "The Spirit of God", the very same arrangement we sang in our choir last week for the 175th anniversary of the Kirtland Temple dedication.  While the MoTab certainly can make any choral piece sound amazing, I definitely thought our choir wasn't too far off of them in terms of quality AND singing it in the Kirtland Temple was WAAAAAY cooler than at Conference.  WAY cooler.  Just saying.  :)