Kent Courthouse Design Undergoing Several Changes
Portage County Commissioners agree to majority of recommendations made by Kent advisory panel.
The design plan garnered four variances July 17 from the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals. The next day, ARB members suggested changes involving the location of the building’s lone public entryway, the structure’s front-yard setback and the number of parking spaces.
Architect Allan Renzi of Richard L. Bowen & Associates in Cleveland shared the ARB’s design-change recommendations with commissioners, who were agreeable to several but opposed to one.
Renzi said ARB members suggested constructing the building about 12 feet further back on the property than originally designed so it aligns with its next-door neighbors, Kent Historical Society and Cuttin' Loose salon. The additional setback translates into the loss of parking spaces, bringing the final count on the property to 109.
Kent’s zoning board last week granted the project a variance to reduce the number of parking spots from the 144 required by code to 132. Now the project will need to go before the zoning board again in August to further reduce that number.
Portage County Municipal Court Judge Barbara Oswick told commissioners Tuesday she was okay with the increased front-yard setback and its related reduction in parking spaces. She said 109 spaces would serve the Kent courthouse well even on its busiest days.
Renzi said the setback recommendation will actually shave about $500,000 in retaining-wall expenses from the project budget. He explained that the “substantial” retaining wall at the rear of the courthouse property is crumbling and would need replaced in either design scenario.
The redesigned site plan features a strip of green space along the rear property line, whereas its predecessor had parking spaces adjacent to a new, tall retaining wall. With the parking lot moved away from the hill, contractors can build a lower retaining wall that will save about a half-million dollars.
Another ARB recommendation agreed upon by the commissioners and Oswick was to change the panels flanking the lone public entryway from a light-colored stone to red brick.
But both Oswick and Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio dismissed the ARB’s recommendation of moving that public entryway from the courthouse’s southeast corner to its front, facing East Main Street.
Renzi showed commissioners architectural renderings featuring both designs while explaining that a corner entryway better serves visitors since the parking lot is located behind the building.
Both Marsilio and Oswick said they prefer the appearance of the corner entryway.
“I’m giving them the (reduction in) parking spaces, but not the entrance,” said Oswick, who believes a corner entry “will discourage loitering around the courthouse.”
Commissioners also agreed to go with a flat roof on the building instead of a pitched roof after Renzi explained that doing so would save about $405,000. Also, he said, a flat roof would accommodate the building’s mechanicals while a pitched roof would mean they would take up about 2,200 square feet of basement space that could be used for future expansion.
A redesigned courthouse plan will appear on the agendas for Kent’s zoning board and Planning Commission in August.