The Kent State University Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved its single largest, one-time purchase to date of properties related to campus expansion and creation of The Esplanade.
The trustees agreed to spend more than $2.2 million to buy seven residential and commercial structures in the neighborhood west of campus. The parcels are in close proximity to other Kent State-owned properties bought within the past four years along College, Lincoln and Willow streets.
Wednesday's approved expense would bring Kent State's total spent buying land in the neighborhood west of campus since 2007 to above $6 million, and that total excludes the $3.28 million expected for construction costs to actually build the Esplanade extension.
Standing to gain the most from the sales approved Wednesday are Chris Smeiles, a Portage County Commissioner and Kent Realtor.
Kent State is buying the properties “for future expansion of the Kent campus" and the purchases are "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 purchase resolution OK’d by university trustees Wednesday.
The properties to be bought through the university’s real estate fund, pending necessary state approvals, are:
- 408 E. Main St. – Currently owned by Smeiles, the 0.177-acre parcel contains a two-story, 3,582-square-foot commercial/rental building constructed in 1920. Its main tenant is Kent Outfitters. An independent appraisal done in September 2010 placed the property value at $375,000.
- 414 E. Main St. – Currently owned by Smeiles, the .033-acre parcel contains a two-story, 6,800-square-foot commercial/office building constructed in 1900. It is home to Cutler Real Estate, and formerly was Century 21 Smeiles Realty. An independent appraisal done in September 2010 placed the property value at $610,000.
While the combined appraised value of the above-listed properties is $985,000, Smeiles agreed to a sale price of $977,500.
- 116 S. Lincoln St. – Currently owned by Kent Campus Rentals LLC, in which Smeiles is a partner, the 0.25-acre parcel contains a two-story, 1,968-square-foot home built in 1900 and registered as a licensed boarding house with the Kent Health Department. A September 2010 appraisal states a value of $352,000; it is being sold for $338,500.
- 129 S. Willow St. – Currently owned by Kent Willow Street Rentals LLC, in which Smeiles is a partner, the 0.27-acre parcel contains a two-story, 1,476-square-foot house built in 1900. It is registered as a licensed boarding house with the Kent Health Department. A September 2010 appraisal states a value of $259,000.
- 117 S. Willow St. – Also owned by Kent Willow Street Rentals LLC, the 0.10-acre parcel contains a two-story, 1,316-square-foot rental house built in 1910. A September 2010 appraisal states a value of $150,000.
- 123 S. Willow St. – Also owned by Kent Willow Street Rentals LLC, the 0.24-acre parcel contains a two-story, 1,344-square-foot rental house built in 1901. A September 2010 appraisal states a value of $145,000.
While the combined appraised value of the three above-listed properties owned by Kent Willow Street Rentals is $554,000, the property owner has agreed to a sale price of $534,500.
These aren't the first properties Chris Smeiles has sold to the university for the Esplanade extension.
In 2010, Smeiles sold a licensed rooming house at 133 S. Willow St. to the university for $255,000. Including all sales, Smeiles stands to gain a potential total of more than $2.1 million in properties he will have had a hand in selling to the university.
Smeiles could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
The university also agreed to buy one more property in the area of the Esplanade extension: 402 E. Main St. It's owned by RHS Development, and the 0.19-acre parcel contains a two-story, 3,168-square-foot commercial/rental structure built in 1900. It is home to WordSmiths. An independent appraisal finished in September 2010 placed the property value at $380,000; RHS Development agreed to a sale price of $367,500.
The purchase agreement approved Wednesday states that the current owners wish to continue business operations in all the properties being sold. Therefore, conceptual agreements are being developed that will allow the owners to rent from the university for up to five years.
“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 financial returns from this conceptual agreement will help reduce the net investment in these properties,” the resolution stated.
In a separate resolution, trustees also agreed to buy property at 428-430 E. College Ave. from Dorothy V. Meyer for $230,000, which is its appraised value. The university also will have an option to purchase Meyers' adjacent property at 308 S. Lincoln St. for $200,000, the appraised value, when it becomes available.
In June, university officials said they had secured all the key properties necessary along the proposed Esplanade route, but that they were still working on buying additional properties necessary to provide landscape buffer areas for the Esplanade extension.
Scroll down for past coverage on Esplanade land buys: