Old Kent hotel’s future remains unclear

Julie Sickel

As the city of Kent prepares for new downtown development, the future of one dominant structure in the area remains uncertain.

The old Kent hotel continues to be a source of discussion and legal proceedings between city officials, city council members, owner Gregg Vilk of Vilco LLC and the people of Kent. The hotel was built in 1920 and is located on the corner of South Depeyster and East Main Street.

City council members have discussed the possibility of buying the old Kent hotel in the interest of improving the downtown aesthetic.

“I am interested in changing the situation we have now,” Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said. “That is, we have an old building that is an eyesore in downtown Kent that someone needs to fix up or take down.”

The city is currently tied up in litigation with Vilk over back taxes owed to the city. Dan Smith, Kent economic development director, was unable to discuss the hotel because of the sensitive nature of the current legal proceedings.

“All I can say is that I think there’s a great deal of frustration about the hotel downtown,” Smith said.

Shaffer explained that the possibility of the city buying the old hotel would be a “last resort.”

“If the current owner can’t afford to do something with it, and it appears he can’t, and if no private developers can buy it, which seems to be the case, then I would be OK with (the city buying the hotel),” she said. “We can’t have this big dilapidated building in the middle of all this development because that’s the only thing people will see.”

Ron Burbick, the man who brought Acorn Alley to Kent, said he put a bid in for the hotel in the past, but his offer was ignored.

“For what (Vilk’s) asking for now, there’s no way I’d consider purchasing it,” he said.

As for the potential of the old building, Shaffer and Burbick are unsure of what could be done. Neither party has been permitted to enter the old hotel to assess how to proceed if the property were purchased.

“Unfortunately, (Vilk has) done so many bad things to that building, I’m not sure that it can be saved,” Burbick said. “He’s totally gutted the building; there’s nothing inside that building, just bare walls. And there aren’t even individual walls; it’s just the outside walls. There’s no electrical, no plumbing, no heating — it’s all been torn out.”

Vilk did not return phone calls to comment about his plans for the hotel. The listing agent for the property is Ed Bargerstock, a past Kent councilman. Bargerstock could not give details about Vilk’s plans or the status of offers on the property due to client confidentiality. Instead, he refers potential buyers to his website for more information on the hotel.

The listing price of the property is also confidential, but the property is valued at $136,600 by the Portage County Auditor’s Office.

“We all want the positive development in Kent to be the issue, not the negative,” Shaffer said. “I hope there’s going to be a breakthrough soon.”

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected].