Gund’s plans for Village could lead to greater economic prosperity
The campus is already seeing changes as a result of the Master Plan: The impending close of the Gambier Grill and a recent Village meeting indicate that Stage 3 of the plan, “Village Revitalization,” may begin as soon as 18 months from now. This component proposes the demolition of beloved downtown buildings and stands to be controversial.
Tensions between the student body and administration have risen over a lack of transparency and a seeming disregard for student wishes. A focus on the year 2024, Kenyon’s bicentennial, reveals an incentive behind recent changes and ensuing the dissension. The Master Plan is paving the way for the College’s third century of operation, and while many are understandably upset with the loss of what is familiar, a revitalization of the College’s basic infrastructure is necessary as we prepare to meet the future.
Plans to rejuvenate the Village aim at preserving and enhancing the small-scale charm and pedestrian feel of Gambier. This includes tearing down Farr Hall, moving the Village Market to where the Black Box Theater currently stands and many other renovations that will “nurture a vibrant retail environment.”
The majority of the blocks in downtown Gambier are underdeveloped and the sidewalks are not conducive to pedestrians. The Master Plan proposes building more restaurants and stores. Businesses have come and gone throughout Kenyon’s history, and the goal of the Master Plan is to foster a sustainable and prosperous economy in downtown Gambier. A resuscitation of infrastructure must necessarily precede this economic development and growth. All these renovations stand to improve the atmosphere and function of the Village.
Many are resistant to these changes because they see them as a destruction of tradition; however, to paint the community as unchanging and stagnant is problematic. Kenyon is a dynamic entity, constantly restructuring itself to face new challenges. Farr Hall was constructed 50 years ago, and while its iconic pillars will be missed, its oversized and industrial architecture stands counter to the residential fabric of Gambier. As a community, we cannot remain rigid in our history, constantly fighting for the familiar simply because “that’s the way it’s always been.” We must navigate a balance between the past, present and future, and ensure the legacy we leave behind is something to be proud of.
This is why, as students at Kenyon, we must take an active role in our surroundings. We must advocate for the change we want and need. Although most of us are at Kenyon for a mere four years, the College has been standing for nearly 200. The Master Plan is not a haphazard figment of Graham Gund’s imagination; this is a process that began over a decade ago and has received the input of hundreds of parents, community members and alumni.
As the plan comes to fruition in these next four years, it is up to us to ensure Kenyon continues to uphold the traditions of days gone by, while encouraging the necessary infrastructure development that will carry us into the next 100 years. The essence of Kenyon is not in buildings or structures, but in the sense of community we find on the path to the future.
Jenna Rochelle ’18 is an international studies major from Colorado Springs, Colo. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.