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Kent Courthouse Design Undergoing Several Changes

Portage County Commissioners agree to majority of recommendations made by Kent advisory panel.

Design plans for the new building were altered Tuesday by the Portage County Commissioners in response to recommendations made last week by the city’s Architectural Review Board.

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, and 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.

Teresa K. July 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM
The new front and center door design looks much better, kind of matches the new hotel design and gives it a stately, official look. I know there can't only be one doorway into this place, can there? Imagine the rush for the door in the event of a fire or evacuation. There needs to be an entrance closer to the parking area, too Thoughts of the Colorado movie theater disaster and running toward the main entrance go through my mind. There wouldn't have been so many injured ones if there had been more known accessible doors. There is a reason the hold up on this project keeps coming back to the FRONT DOOR. On the parking spaces, how many employees will there be daily, what's the average? How many "visitors" daily?
Logan July 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Just by reducing one item (retaining wall) is saving $500,000. Is there anything else we can double check to bring the price down? It worries me that the price is going to be astronomical with the price of that wall and the price of the roof. Does anyone know what the final price is set to be? Also, does anyone else agree with me this building is going to stick out like a sore thumb next to the fraternity houses? This building should not have even been built there.
Laurel Myers Hurst July 25, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Rrrr...does this article really mean the light stone is eliminated at the facade will be all brick? The look of the design will change completely, and it will, truly, look like CVS. Retain the facade pictured in this article! "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."
Teresa K. July 25, 2012 at 05:56 PM
logan: i agree it is a totally out of place structure. lol i'm kind of wondering if long term "they" aren't hoping to move the frat houses elsewhere. the location of this makes absolutely no sense to me. it appears to me that kent planners/ whoever are slowly spreading out the tentacles of what is deemed downtown and the ksu esplanade... merging it all as one flowing entity for all to enjoy... or not. i could be wrong, but a couple years back, i thought that particular intersection ( the main, willow, parkway) was one of the top traffic accident areas in portage county. i think the courthouse will bring more traffic.
Logan July 25, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Teresa - KSU has been trying very hard for years to get Fraternities to move to Fraternity Circle. However, there they are not allowed to have alcohol, and like everywhere else in Kent, the rent is astronomical. Not to mention, many of the Fraternity homes have been there for many years. Mine for example as been a Fraternity House for over 60 years...if that doesn't contain Kent history, then I don't know what does?

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