Local, state and national dignitaries gathered on East Erie Street in Kent Aug. 4 to celebrate the completion of the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority's Kent Central Gateway.

The $26 million parking, transit hub and retail facility, mostly funded through a $20 million federal TIGER grant, helped to leverage more than $110 million in downtown Kent economic development including the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center, Acorn Alley II and the Fairmount Properties block with corporate offices, residential apartments, retail and restaurants.

"TIGER stands for transportation investment generating economic recovery and the Kent Central Gateway transit center is a project that has done just that," said Marisol Simon, a regional representative of the Federal Transit Administration. "This project is a prime example of how transit investments, when they're done right, can be the center of a community's economic redevelopment."

Throughout the planning and construction of PARTA's facility and Kent redevelopment, collaboration between government and private entities has been repeatedly credited for Kent's revival, which Rep. Tim Ryan reiterated at the event.

"We have a mindset in the country right now that we can't do big things and I think, more than anything else for me, this is an example of what American people can do if you come together, work together, work through your problems, you have a spirit of cooperation and you keep the goal in mid throughout all of the ups and downs," Ryan said. "This is an amazing project and an amazing monument to that spirit."

PARTA General Manager John Drew said a small, dedicated staff at PARTA, along with guidance of its board and partners in the other downtown development projects, managed to pull off an enormous accomplishment in the face of doubt.

"Several people said to me as we were going on with this project that we will never get the money. Well, once we did they said we couldn't build it. Well, once we did they said we couldn't run it," Drew said. "Wrong on all accounts."

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said what has happened in Kent will help to strengthen the county.

"A strong Kent makes for a strong Portage County and I don't think that message should be lost at any stretch of the way," Ruller said. "We really think that we can not only be an economic engine to ourselves here in the city, but to the county."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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