New $22.9 million parking deck planned for front campus

A Google Earth Pro view of front campus shows the Terrace and White Hall parking lots that will be eliminated as the university renovates the front campus area. At left, the Williamson House will be preserved, but a new parking deck will be built nearby. 

Samantha Farland

Kent State plans to build a parking deck to make up for the parking spots that will be lost when the new College of Business Administration (COBA) is constructed.

The 10-year Facilities Master Plan originally included three parking decks in separate locations: the corner of Midway Drive and East Main Street, College Street and South Lincoln Street and Summit Street across from the Integrated Sciences Building.

The parking deck planned for south of College Street and between Willow Street and South Lincoln Street will no longer be a part of the plan –– only two parking decks will be built.

The parking will be distributed between two parking decks. The excess can be managed with some surface parking lots, which is more efficient and economical, said Michael Bruder, the university’s executive director of facilities, planning and design. A portion of the Rockwell parking lot will be removed and turned into green space to promote a more walkable campus.

With the loss of parking, additional parking lots will be added by the South Lincoln Street, College Avenue and Willow Street area to maintain the current count of parking spaces in the district.

“Visitors for the Kent State Museum will park in the current lot immediately adjacent to the building,” Bruder said. “However, we intend to reconfigure the parking lot to be easier for first-time visitors to navigate.”

Students and faculty may have to walk further to buildings, but only a one to five-minute walk is anticipated from the new parking lots.

“We are always trying to balance the need for parking with not having an entirely asphalt campus; we want a beautiful campus,” Bruder said.

The parking deck on Summit Street is in Phase 2 of the Master Plan for 2021-24. This structure will possibly have a pedestrian bridge that will connect to the science building.

Construction of the $22.9 million parking deck by the new COBA building will take place in late summer. The parking deck and the COBA building will both open in the fall of 2021.

“A parking structure versus an asphalt parking lot runs about five times the cost per space,” Bruder said.

All the parking lots are paid with parking permits, which include maintenance fees. The prices haven’t been raised in 10 years for parking passes, and that is why there aren’t more parking decks, Bruder said.

Kent State sells 1,700 parking passes for only 1,300 parking spots.

Two of the four stories of the parking deck will be in the hillside, reducing visual impact. There will also be access to the outside on three levels to accommodate traffic.

The parking deck will be one-fourth of the size of the current parking lots in that area, Bruder said.

The construction of the new COBA building will eliminate roughly 870 parking spots, but the parking deck will provide 1,100 parking spots.

As a visitor lot, this will also benefit the School of Theatre and Dance. There will be more convenient parking for shows and recitals than what is currently available, Bruder said.

“If we had a parking deck near the performing arts center, it would encourage audience members to come to the school’s shows since the deck would ensure parking for them,” sophomore musical theatre major Amelia Workman said.

Parking Services is exploring options to make the parking deck more efficient.

“We are looking to move toward a license plate recognition system on campus,” Parking Services Manager Larry Emling said.

There will be a loss of 400 spots for two academic years while the construction of the COBA building takes place.

“We are still in the planning stages to minimize impact on students and faculty,” Emling said.

A finalized plan will be in place by spring that may require students to park farther away from campus by the stadium and in the Summit East parking lot.

“This part of campus is such a prominent entry point onto campus, and we aren’t putting our best foot forward,” Bruder said. “I am excited to be able to transform this area and make something really nice.”

Samantha is the construction reporter. Contact her at [email protected].