A few shovels of dirt brought the long-awaited Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center one step closer to reality this morning.
Want a room with a pool? A banquet center for your 300-guest wedding or conference? Close to 100 guest rooms? The new hotel will bring all those amenities and more to downtown Kent when it opens in 2013 or earlier.
Here's the numerical rundown on the Kent State hotel, which will not be tied to a national chain.
- Estimated project cost: more than $15 million
- First floor: 22,780 total square feet with 11,000 square feet dedicated to the 300-seat conference area
- 95 guest rooms and a fitness center spread out over three upper floors; four floors total
- Total building size of 76,350 square feet
It's a big building, but bigger still is the partnership that is making it happen.
"This was a public-private partnership. An amalgam of city officials ... federal officials, the university all linking arms to get something very important done," Kent State University President Lester Lefton said.
Even the man whose business is managing the project — and whose large financial contributions to the university made buying the land for the hotel possible — paid tribute to that partnership.
Ron Pizzuti, chairman and CEO of The Pizzuti Companies, which is partnering with the Kent State Foundation for the hotel, thanked leaders with the city, university and foundation for helping make the new hotel possible.
"The leadership that has come from the city, from the mayor and from my friend ... (Kent City Manager) Dave Ruller and his crew and the folks at the foundation ... it's been a nice ride," Pizzuti said. "It's nice to come back and nice to be able to give something back to the university that changed my life and the town that grew up our entire family."
Pizzuti grew up in Kent and graduated from Kent State in 1962. He also served as a university trustee. He recalled visiting the site of the hotel when it was Fenn Dairy and buying milk there as a youngster before it became the Record-Courier Kent office.
Pizzuti said the hotel is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013, but he joked Monday that he wanted to talk with the construction firm managing the project after the groundbreaking to see if they could speed up the opening date.
The university foundation board voted in June to partner with Pizzuti and invest in the hotel, but how much the foundation will invest remains unclear. University officials have said in the past the foundation is expected to invest up to $3 million in the project. The foundation has already spent more than $500,000 buying the two large properties needed for the hotel, but those land buys were possible thanks to a large, personal donation from Pizzuti.
The hotel is just one aspect of downtown Kent's estimated $100 million redevelopment. Other projects downtown include:
- Acorn Alley II, which developer Ron Burbick could cut the ribbon on as early as this week.
- The city and Fairmount Properties mixed-use redevelopment, which broke ground earlier this summer.
- PARTA's transit center, which will rise across Erie Street from the new hotel.
- The Esplanade pathway, which will extend from the Kent State campus into downtown and to the new hotel.
The sign package for the hotel must be approved by the Kent Planning Commission but has not yet been submitted to the city.
"There are days in the life of an institution that are remarkable ... but today is a very special and remarkable day," Lefton said of Monday's groundbreaking. "It's a day that we've long looked forward to."