The Mill District

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A grass-roots tactical urbanism and brand project for an historic district in Kent, Ohio.

The Mill District Better Block was a day-long event temporarily showcasing road improvements, community activities, artwork, and communal gathering spaces on N. Water Street in Kent, Ohio. The street is a vibrant neighborhood that boasts quality coffee shops, art galleries, yoga, and dance—but it’s also known for its vacant lots and buildings, and lacks of many basic infrastructural elements such as crosswalks and streetlights.

We worked with the community to plan and brand the event which resulted from months of vision casting, community planning, research, and volunteer coordination, and was preceded by working with the community and City of Kent to brand the street as “The Mill District”—named after the iconic Mill established by the Williams Brothers in 1879. Shortly after the planning for Kent Better Block began, the City of Kent received a $1 million grant for street improvements to North Water Street from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Client

City of Kent, Ohio

Services

Brand Identity, Apparel, Print Collateral, Web Design, Strategic Workshops, Consultation, Signage, Wayfinding, Placemaking

Year

2018

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Kent Better Block was planned and executed through 22 bi-weekly meetings with 75+ dedicated community members. These visioning workshops were comprised of brainstorming sessions, placemaking exercises, resource and volunteer coordination, and community outreach. Through a survey with local businesses, we found that there was a shared desire for change and revitalization in the community, as well as a new opportunity to unite the business owners and community members with a shared sense of place.

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We designed a flexible brand system for the street based on old images of the iconic mill established by the Williams Brothers in 1879, known as one of the most recognizable buildings in Kent’s skyline. We became inspired by the rich visual history of the street, in addition to the arts and coffee culture which thrives there.

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Day-of features included mocked-up crosswalks, diagonal parking, and temporary traffic bump outs in addition to other temporary street-wide improvements that included expanded gathering spaces and art installations.

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