College proposal divides Hiram

By Heather Condley Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The college is hoping that Village Council will agree to vacate Bancroft Street between Garfield and Dean streets at its Sept. 22 meeting, so college officials can close it off to build their new science building. They then want to route Hayden Street into an "S"-shaped curve and connect it to Dean Street.

The new building would be attached to Colton Hall, which, along with Turner Hall, houses the college's current science facilities. The new portion would be attached to Colton in an "L" shape, crossing Bancroft Street and would then run perpendicular to Bancroft, across from Colton. In the final phase the Turner portion of the existing structure would be torn down.

Village officials are hoping that by closing Bancroft, they can create more of a distinction between the college campus and the village and open up more green space, including a pedestrian walkway.

But some village residents contend that the plan would upset the village's current infrastructure and disagree with having to give up part of the village to the college.

Bancroft resident Paul Spencer said that one of the main reasons he is against the plan is because he has only seen computer rendierings of the building and no actual drawings, which reminds him of a few years ago when the college erected its library..

"We saw fancy computer images of the library. It was supposed to be an asset to the skyline, but I think it came out to be more of a horrific eyesore," he said. "The whole science building is going down the same line."

Spencer said he also feels as though the college doesn't have the best interest of the village in mind.

"I think they're basically a corporation in business to make money. I don't think they have the best interest of the people in mind," he said. "They sacrificed a lot of green space to build a library and now their claim is to increase the green space. As a life-time resident of Hiram, (I've found that) whatever the college wants it gets.

"They're also asking us to give up a right of way, which is a hunk of real property for the village. I don't see any real compensation for that," he added. "Sure they're going to pay for the expense of closing it, but there isn't any other concession."

Although Spencer and members of his family oppose the plan, he realizes that they are a minority.

"Going to meetings, I realize that a majority of the residents say they want it. I may be opposed to it, but if (council) is going to do their job, I expect to see it (the road) closed."

The Hiram Historical Society has also spoken out against the plan. Mayor Monica Fratus said that she has received a letter from the historical society objecting to the road being closed. Historical Society chairman Dick Masters could not be reached for comment as to why the society opposes it.

Several village officials have also spoken out against the plan, citing a number of safety concerns. At a community forum in June, Mayor Fratus asked the heads of several village departments to report on how they think the project will affect the village.

Village Service Director Ray Dixon said that the proposal will increase traffic through the village's current business district and increase accident occurrence.

A traffic study conducted in January showed that from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on a Saturday, which is peak time for the weekend, an additional 35 cars would probably travel on Hinsdale Street, which also runs between Dean and Garfield streets.

The architects involved in the project conclude that the traffic patterns would only be minimally affected, but some residents say that even a slight increase is a lot for such a small community.

Fire Chief Dan Ellenberger shared his concern about the potential height of the building, saying that there are already 12 buildings on campus that are so high their roofs can't be reached by the village's fire equipment.

He also said that closing Bancroft may negatively alter emergency response times on Hayden Street and Peckham Avenue.

Police Chief Les Evey said that the structure would limit the visibility while officers are patrolling.

"The campus will be closed off and we won't be able to see in," he said in June.

He also cited enforcement of parking as a potential problem.

But not everyone is against the new building, in fact, many residents, whether they are affiliated with the college or not, seem to think that the change is just what the college and the village need.

Michael Grajek, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, has said that the proposed plan fulfills the college's desire to make the sciences interdisciplinary by connecting the new building to the old building and maintaining the closeness between the departments.

Other supporters have listed green space that would be opened up on

campus as well as the need of a new facility as reasons for their

support.

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