College of Business to construct new building in coming years

Colin Baker

By around 2020, Kent State business majors may have a new building to meet the demands of the growing enrollment of the College of Business Administration.

The proposed building, featured in a Youtube video from the university, will have larger classrooms, an atrium gathering place for students and collaborative research spaces.

“The building has a tentative budget of $65 million and a size of 147,000 square feet,” said Michael Bruder, the executive director of facilities, planning and design.

“The current Business Administration Building on Janik Drive has a nominal size of 110,000 square feet, with the administrative-only fourth and fifth floors included,” Bruder said. 

A new academic building has been completed on Kent campus every year since 2014, according to the Office of the University Architect website. 

“With a large campus, at least one building is getting an addition or large-scale renovations every year on campus,” Bruder said. 

As of November 2017, the building and its budget have not been fully approved by the Board of Trustees. 

The building would be on the south side of Summit Street across from the Integrated Sciences Building. 

Bruder said the new site is being considered because of its advantages to the program, campus planning and proximity to downtown Kent.

These factors are being brought to the forefront as a result of the campus master plan process nearing completion, which provides a 10-year schedule addressing construction, renovation and innovation for the university.

The other option is the C-Midway parking lot location, at the intersection of Midway Drive and East Main Street. Bruder said the C-Midway site has some key features on the Summit Street site. 

“This site has the advantage of being a new ‘gateway’ building to the campus from the north along the busiest road around campus,” Bruder said. “It is also more closely engaged with the downtown area of Kent.” 

However, Larry Emling, the manager of Parking Services, said either site will pose some challenges. 

“We would have to look how to replace the spaces the building takes up and how to absorb the staff parking from that area,” Emling said. “It would be a little tight because we have already lost 140 spaces from the Summit project.”

If the new building brings in 200 employees, we would need at least 400 more spaces. With the already limited parking space around campus, Kent State may have to consider adding parking garages.”

Emling said the cost of parking garages is an obstacle to their construction, creating a dilemma for Parking Services.

“(A parking garage) has not been in the vision of past administrations,” Emling said. “A 500-car deck would cost around $10 million, so a 1,000-car deck would run the university around $22 million, and something like that would have to be paid through parking fees.” 

Deborah Spake, the dean of the College of Business, said the building is being added due to the current business building not meeting the demands of the college.

“The Business Administration Building was constructed in the early 1970s, when enrollment in the college was much smaller,” Spake said.

As of the Fall 2017 semester, the college has an enrollment of 3,111 undergraduate students, according to the Institutional Research report.

“Our faculty teach in nine buildings across campus,” Spake said. “The building simply is not large enough for all of the courses we offer or all of the needs we have for our students. … There is just not much space for our students to sit together and work in teams. … A lot of our curriculum involve group projects and the lack of space hinders that.”

Bruder and Spake said that after the new building is complete, it is unlikely the Business Administration Building will continue being used by the college.

“The old building will likely be repurposed for administrative services or other programs,” Bruder said. 

Faculty and students have problems with the current Business Administration Building. 

“With its older style, the business building has charm,” said Gary Deinert, the principal consultant with Leadership Insights Associates. “It is getting constrained in space and kind of getting beat up. I think (the business building) is a functional building but it is definitely time to replace it.” 

Newer faculty members like Thomas Sahajdack, a third-semester adjunct lecturer in economics, are looking forward to the new building and have problems with the old building. 

“Research shows that facilities play a surprisingly large role in student (and faculty) recruitment and outcomes,” Sahajdack said. “I think a new building could help us attract students and give them the best education we can.” 

Megan McGraw, a sophomore marketing and human resources major, said the current building is outdated and needs new seating and amenities.

“The elevators sometimes break down, that’s an issue,” McGraw said. “The classrooms are old and squeaky, and I hope the new building has better maneuverability, as that stairway from the first to second floor is very small.” 

More senior faculty have had some difficult experiences with the business building, and they have high hopes for the new building.

Shawn Rohlin, an associate professor of economics and entrepreneurship, said the lack of large lecture halls in particular is a problem.

“With these older buildings you are kind of constrained in the configurations you can have for your classes,” Rohlin said. “You’ve probably seen those extra chairs at the back of these lecture halls; there are just too many students and not enough seats for some classes.”

Colin Baker is the architecture and construction reporter. Contact him at [email protected].