Kent State buys $2.2 million in properties for Esplanade expansion


Graphic by Rachael Chilcott.

Daniel Moore

Kent State is now the owner of seven commercial and private properties located in the neighborhood west of campus. 

The purchases, approved by the Board of Trustees last week, total $2.2 million and put the university in position to go ahead with its expansion of the Esplanade. 

Properties purchased through Board of Trustees Resolution

408 E. Main Street $375,000

414 E. Main Street $610,000

–Christopher and Deborah Smeiles

116 S. Lincoln Street $338,500

–Kent Campus Rentals, LLC

129 S. Willow Street $259,000

117 S. Willow Street $150,000

123 S. Willow Street $145,000

–Kent Willow Street Rentals, LLC

402 E. Main Street $367,000

–RHS Development, Inc.

“The purchase of these properties will allow for future expansion of the Kent Campus and is consistent with community plans to revitalize the area between the campus and downtown Kent including extension of the Esplanade to the downtown area,” according to the resolution approved by the Board. 

The new property will be adjacent to the Esplanade extension, the resolution stated, and current business owners on the sold properties can continue operations. Owners have the option of renting from the university for up to five years, which will help offset Kent State’s cost.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Gregg Floyd has begun working on the details of an acceptable rental agreement, it stated. 

“The university does not have immediate plans to develop this property and retaining the structures will not interfere with the extension of the university Esplanade,” the resolution read. “The financial returns from this conceptual agreement will help reduce the net investment in these properties.”

Christopher Smeiles, a Portage County Commissioner and realtor for Cutler Real Estate, sold two of his properties on E. Main St. to Kent State. He is also a partner in Kent Campus Rentals LLC and Kent Willow Street Rentals LLC, which sold the university another four properties. 

The six land parcels Smeiles had a part in selling range in size from 0.1-acre to 0.33-acre, and value from $145,000 to $610,000. 

“I’ve been acquiring these properties over a 30-year period, one at a time,” Smeiles said. “And Kent State expressed a desire. I’m getting older and I decided the time was right for both sides.”

Smeiles said his first deal with the university was last year when he sold it a $255,000 rooming house at 133 S. Willow St. However, he said he has no plans to sell any more properties to the university. 

Including last year’s sale his exchanges with the university have totaled $2.1 million. 

Properties are bought using a “sufficient balance” of the university’s real estate fund, according to the resolution. Director of University Relations Emily Vincent said the funds consist of “money from operating efficiencies and energy savings.” 

Vincent did not elaborate on the fund. 

Vincent said the purchases, which are part of the university’s Excellence Agenda, were all made at or less than the Sept. 2010 appraisal price from willing sellers. For example, although an independent appraiser valued Smeiles’ two Main Street properties at a combined $985,000, Smeiles agreed to a price of $977,500. 

Vincent also said the university has additional properties it is “pursuing,” which would be “desirable to include as part of the Esplanade.” She would not disclose any information on the properties as it may drive up the price for additional properties. 

Vincent said the all the recent — and future — Esplanade purchases are strategic and necessary for strengthening ties between the university and city.  

“(It provides) a physical link,” she said. “(It provides) students with a safe pathway to visit, enjoy and patronize downtown Kent and its businesses as well as connecting residents and visitors to the Kent State campus.”


Daniel Moore at [email protected].