Parking deck plans canceled

Jacob Brooks, Reporter

Kent State will not be moving forward on plans for new parking decks on campus.

Five years ago, Kent State’s Board of Trustees approved phase one of the Gateway Master Plan.

The $220 million phase, which included projects such as the Design Innovation Hub, also included a new parking deck along Main Street, near the site of the new Crawford Hall.

The deck has been canceled and the future of two additional decks are uncertain.

The master plan called for a total of three new parking decks across campus with the Main Street location set to be constructed first.

What was being designed as an open structure to limit security concerns, the Main Street deck was to include more than 1,000 spaces at a price tag of about $28 million.

In addition to Main Street, a parking deck was planned for Summit Street across from the Student Center with another on Lincoln Avenue near the architecture building.

Larry Emling, manager of Parking and Transit Services, said the parking needs on campus have changed in the five years since the plan was approved.

At the time, Kent State’s enrollment was “going up pretty steadily,” he said.

More than 11,000 parking permits were being issued each year when the plan was created. That number now stands at around 9,000, according to Emling.

“We didn’t have much flexibility. Pretty much, we sold by class standings and if you met the class standing and we had the permits, we would sell it to you,” he said.

Factors such as the pandemic and finances led to the decision to cancel the project.

“There was a lot of uncertainty on what the campus was going to look like when we came out of this (pandemic),” Emling said.

There was also uncertainty as to whether Parking Services could generate the revenue necessary to pay off the project.

“I think it was a good call at the time, because even right now, I’m not sure we’d be able to make that,” he said. “It’d be close.”

Even if they could foot the bill, Emling said they would have “no money” for other projects on campus.

“That could be detrimental to the current parking situation,” he said.

At this point, the future of the decks on Summit and Lincoln remain to be seen.

Emling said he doesn’t expect them to be built and questions if they’re even needed.

That sentiment is shared by Jay Graham, executive director of the Office of the University Architect.

“I would be surprised if we proceeded with a structured parking deck in any of those locations at this time,” he said before adding, “I think there are other, more important priorities.”

As plans to add additional parking remain uncertain, a common complaint from students is the amount of parking spaces available on campus.

Emling said there is enough parking, it just might not be as close to their building as some prefer.

“There are options out there. It’s just what’s reasonable. You know, we can’t build a deck in every parking lot to accommodate everybody that wants to park there,” he said.

Compared with last semester, Parking Services has often been offering more permits each week because of available spots.

“We’re not going to hold back. If we can get somebody closer and there’s spots out there and permits available, we’re going to sell them to somebody,” Emling said.

He said he understands students’ frustrations, but there’s only so much his team can do.

“Our goal is to get people as close as they want to be. But, I don’t want to create an overcrowding situation,” he said.

To share their concerns, students can contact parking services by phone at 330-672-4432 or by email at [email protected].

Jacob Brooks is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].