Section: News

College plans to construct patio on Middle Path

College plans to construct patio on Middle Path

Imagine a place where students and professors gather on Middle Path to swap stories and grab a meal from a nearby food truck. The College is hoping to make that a reality.

Kenyon plans to replace a section of road downtown with a café terrace, complete with seating nooks and tables, before next fall. Changes to the intended site — the section of Scott Lane between Gaskin Avenue and Chase Avenue — is part of the Middle Path Restoration project, whose most recent phase saw the completion of the portion of the path south of the Gates of Hell, with renovations on the section of Middle Path running through the Village to be completed next summer.

Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said the administration envisions “a place where we can put small tables and have an area where students and community members can get their market sandwich and sit down and chat.”

The Middle Path Steering Committee — composed of  faculty, administrators, Village councilors and a student delegate — met three times over the summer to go over proposed designs for the patio from Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), the College’s landscape architect.

Mock-ups for the space, dated July 17 and provided by a member of the committee, show the edge of Middle Path being replaced by a low stone wall with steps and ramps leading up to a central limestone plaza.

Renderings also indicate new trees will be planted around the patio, and in meeting notes from July 29, Matthew Girard, associate at MVVA, wrote, “We will continue with the approach of planting mid-story (20ft-30ft tall) trees in the area of the café terrace.”

Plans for patio furniture have yet to be decided. At least one Village Council member said if the furniture were moveable, it would be only a matter of time it wound up in a fraternity lodge.

College Historian Tom Stamp, a councilman and member of the steering committee, thinks blocking off the section of Scott Lane would improve transportation. “I think it’s very dangerous the way it is now,” he said. And the change to downtown has the potential to revamp how students and cars move around the Village.

On Monday, the Village Council asked the College to conduct a traffic study to determine what impact closing the lane would have on cars moving through downtown. At Council, Kohlman questioned the need for such a study, and said it would be expensive.

“We’re not requesting the Cadillac of traffic studies,” Councilwoman Kachen Kimmel said.

At the Village’s Planning and Zoning Committee on Tuesday, Kohlman and the committee agreed Kenyon would run a traffic study on the area before moving any further with the patio plans.

In conception, the traffic study will involve counting the number of cars that use the turnaround every day, specifically at peak times in the morning, afternoon and evening for a week. The Committee also wanted to review traffic data from a busier weekend.

After Kenyon conducts the traffic study, the Village of Gambier plans to place barriers at the turnaround for anywhere between three days and a week, to see what the reaction of the Gambier community is to the closing.

Jon Lawrence, trade book buyer for the Kenyon Bookstore, said he thought the patio would be a welcome addition.

“It seems like it will be part of the campus being a walking campus,” Lawrence said. “The patio will fit in nicely and support that vision.”

If the community voices a large concern over the closing of the turnaround, Kenyon and the Gambier Planning and Zoning Committee will look into hiring a professional traffic study company.

Kohlman suggested multiple times that Kenyon students be recruited to count cars, but several committee members suggested those results might be biased in the College’s favor. There was concern about the cost of hiring a professional company, but Kohlman also appeared anxious to have this study conducted quickly. 

Another suggestion, which came from Steve Arnett, director of faculty operations, was to use motion-sensor cameras set up in several locations around the turnaround. Neither an exact method nor an exact time to hold the study was determined on Tuesday.

Kohlman said that, at this time, he is unable to estimate the project’s cost.

Alex Pijanowski, Regan Hewitt and Emily Birnbaum contributed reporting.

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