New police station marks end of an era on College Avenue

The new Kent Police Department, which will take up 17 residential properties on East College Street, will have a jail with separate facilities for men, women and juveniles.

Danielle Hess

Unsuitable jail accommodations and the wear and tear of time are causing the Kent Police Department to begin the construction on a new facility this August on East College Avenue.

Eugene Roberts, public service director for the city, said the building itself would cost around $10 million. Building demolitions of existing structures, site acquisitions, environmental documents and the design of the new department would cost $7 million.

Seventeen residential structures on East College Avenue will be demolished to make room for the new police department. Roberts said the street was second in the ranking for the best location.

“The location was not selected specific to the police department,” Roberts said. “Several locations throughout the city were evaluated, and the site that’s currently selected was number two. The site that was number one, when we went through the evaluation process, was actually bordered by Summit Street, Day Street, Water Street and Depeyster (Street). It was determined in a phase one analysis that there was potential for contaminated soils on the western end of the property where there used to be a gas station.”

Roberts said contaminated soil is an issue for the construction of the department because jails cannot be built on tainted grounds.

“Believe it or not, jails are built in terms of environmental issues,” he said. “They’re built to residential standards, so you can’t have dirty soil underneath them, and this is the same thought process as you can’t build a house on a waste dump because the potential is high that the waste could get into the property that you’re living in. The same is true for a jail because people are there for 24 hours, several days in a row, so we can’t house prisoners in that environment.”

The current jail facility at the department on South Water Street does not have separate cells for men, women or juveniles. Jim Prusha, lieutenant at the Kent Police Department, said the new department would provide these necessary accommodations.

The new Kent Police Department, which will take up 17 residential properties on East College Street, will have a jail with separate facilities for men, women and juveniles.

“Our current jail is a huge issue,” Prusha said. “Our jail met the standards for jails when it was created in the 1920s, but it doesn’t meet the current standards. Because of the Grandfather Clause, the [Ohio Department of Corrections] can’t require us to meet those standards. We can still use our current jail, but it is very outdated, so we need a new one.”

On top of the current jail issue, Roberts said the current police department location is no longer being put to good use.

“One, it’s just at the end of its life, and two, it’s just so inefficient in the building,” Roberts said. “You can’t walk from point A to point B without walking up or down some stairs. The security, dispatchers and separations, and all of the things that are being planned in the new building, were retrofitted into an old building, so it wasn’t being used for it’s best possible use.”

The current police station might not be suitable for the Kent Police Department’s current needs, but Tom Wilke, director of economic development for the City of Kent, said his job is to make new use of the building.

“It’s obviously a very prime location right in the heart of Kent and right in the heart of downtown,” Wilke said. “Part of my role is to look at the different options for that property.”

Wilke said his department is working with an outside team, Allegro Realty, to come up with the best usage situation for the building through research and evaluations.

“We’re likely to work with an outside consultant to determine the best possible use for it,” he said. “One thing the property has going for it is great traffic counts both on Haymaker and on Water Street, so lots of cars go by there everyday, and many retailers and restaurants look for that. It also has great visibility. Many cars sit there looking at it as they’re waiting to get through the signal.”

The amount of traffic at the intersection could also be a potential con for retailers or restaurant owners because the space is hard to get in and out of, and since the Kent City Administration is moving locations, Wilke said using this location for office space might be a better fit.

“One possible office use for that location would potentially be the Kent City Administration,” he said. “Some of the city council members during the discussions about this whole thing have expressed the desire to have a highly visible landmark for the city administration building, and one of the things that they say about our current location is that we’re almost invisible.”

Wilke said the city does not want to use the landmark space as an office location if tax money could be generated from it if it’s used for something else, but it all depends on the results from the property evaluation.

“If it turns out that these limitations I talked about, the traffic and so forth, might keep down the value of that property, then maybe it would make sense for it to be used for city administration,” Wilke said. “If on the other hand, we determine the best use is retail or a restaurant or entertainment, then we’ll start to head down that path.”

Roberts said demolition of the houses currently on East College Street would not begin until August 2015 because the city is allowing current tenants to stay until the end of the school year. The removal of water, gas and sanitary lines will be removed before construction of the actual building begins, and Roberts said this process would progress through fall and possibly into winter.

“We’ll prepare for construction in the following year [2016], and construction is about an 18 month process,” Roberts said. “Assuming that we get started and can do some things early on, we’re hoping to be in by the following 2017. If it rains everyday for the next 365 days, like it was cold for the whole month of February, not much is going to go on. It’s all weather dependent construction.”

Contact Danielle Hess at [email protected].

End of an era on College Ave from Cory York on Vimeo.