Hotel-conference center combination to open downtown

Julie Sickel

The proposed Kent hotel and conference center downtown, which were originally supposed to be two separate entities, are now to be part of a single structure bounded by Depeyster and Erie Streets and Haymaker Parkway.

The first idea behind having the hotel and conference center separate came out of a difficulty in figuring out how to combine the two into one building without causing “congestion” to the area, said Thomas Euclide, associate vice president for facilities planning and operations at Kent State.

“As we continued the design evaluation, the cost of splitting the two buildings caused a problem, but there were also efficiencies in having them together,” Euclide said. “So we looked at our options, and ultimately the architect came up with a way that the hotel and conference center could be contained into one building.”

The new plan has an added bonus of saving the city of Kent approximately $700,000. The change to a smaller, consolidated structure means they no longer need to relocate underground utilities as the original plan proposed, said Dan Smith, economic development director for the city of Kent.

Kent State, the city of Kent, and Pizzuti Companies, the Columbus-based development partner in the project, are still in the final planning stages for construction.

As it stands right now, the hotel and conference center is expected to be 7,500 square feet in size with a capacity of 90-110 rooms and a large conference room that can hold 300 people. The entire project will cost an estimated $10.5 million, said Don Wheat, vice president of public and private projects at Pizzuti Companies. Wheat could not say what hotel chains are interested in being part of the project.

Smith said the city of Kent and the construction partners hope to break ground by April or May 2011 and complete construction by fall 2012.

“We’ve been working in a combined effort with the city and Kent State for close to two years now from the very beginning to try to get this project underway, and it’s almost there,” Wheat said.

The hotel and conference center is one of three components in an overall downtown development project. PARTA is planning to begin construction of a new multimodal center with a parking garage across the street from the proposed hotel. There is also a downtown retail development plan in place.

Euclide said having a hotel downtown could attract more students and faculty to the university by providing a more positive visiting experience downtown near campus instead of near Route 76 or in Streetsboro. He said the conference center could help the university host more conferences in the future and draw more business owners downtown.

“It’s just been a great collaborative effort to make the downtown a great place and make Kent State a more vibrant place to go to school and live,” Euclide said. “What’s good for the city is good for the university, and what’s good for the university is good for the city. If we make the entire community a great place to go to school, learn and live, it benefits us all.”

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected].