Members of the Kent Planning Commission had nothing but good things to say Tuesday night about conceptual site plans for the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center.
"Excellent," "wonderful" and "exciting" were just some of the words used by members of the commission to describe the 95-room hotel coupled with a 300-seat conference center planned for the property bordered by Haymaker Parkway, Erie and South DePeyster streets downtown.
"I think you did an excellent job," commission member Peter Paino told members of the Glavan Feher Architects, who are designing the hotel for Kent State and its partner, The Pizzuti Companies.
Jeff Glavan, a partner in the firm, said they've had to make a lot of changes to the design in the nearly three years they've spent working on the project as they tried to incorporate it into the other downtown redevelopment projects and create a plan that works financially for both the university and Pizzuti.
"We’re pretty excited about being here," Glavan told the commission. "To me this has been a long journey … to get here. In the early stages, this project has been all over downtown. We’ve dissected (it), we’ve moved it all over."
Initial plans showed two separate facilities with an 18,000-square-foot conference center and a 110-room, six-story hotel across South DePeyster Street.
"What’s happened in the past several months is that there’s been a great reduction in what the university was looking for in terms of the conference center," Glavan said. "What we’re presenting to you ... for the first time is pretty much our first attempt at the challenges of everything we were confronted with from a programming standpoint."
The commission only listened and offered feedback Tuesday as part of a conceptual review. The project is scheduled to come back to the commission for final site plan review May 3.
One element that did raise concern for commission chair Sean Kaine was the hotel's complete reliance on PARTA's new transit center for parking and the surrounding on-street public parking. The transit center will have about 360 public parking spaces.
"It seems like everybody who’s doing something downtown says, 'Well, the parking will be in the parking garage,'" Kaine said. "At some point we’re going to have to crunch the numbers."
But Kent City Engineer Jim Bowling quelled Kaine's concerns by pointing to a 2008 parking study showing the new transit center, combined with existing parking and a new lot that will be built in the city's mixed-use redevelopment, will provide more than enough parking to serve all the redevelopment projects planned.
Bowling said the study shows all the projects will only use about 80 percent of the available parking once all the downtown work is done.
"We've crunched the numbers," he said.