Come Friday, another major facet of downtown Kent's redevelopment will swing into motion when the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center opens and begins welcoming overnight guests, wedding parties, business conferences and more.
The new hotel, a $16 million project bordered by Haymaker Parkway and South DePeyster and Erie streets, has 94 guest rooms, a restaurant and lounge, an indoor pool and workout facility, a 24-hour business center and 5,000 square feet of event space with an executive boardroom.
The project is a partnership between the Kent State University Foundation and the Pizzuti Companies of Columbus, Ohio. Ground was broken on Sept. 19, 2011.
Kent State will hold an official launch on Oct. 4, coinciding with the opening of the Esplanade extension and Homecoming activities.
The project is part of the $110 million redevelopment of downtown Kent, which includes the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority's Kent Central Gateway facility, two phases of Acorn Al ley retail, the Fairmount project, which includes retail and offices for the Davey Tree Expert Co. and Ametek, and revitalization of the old Kent Hotel.
Mike Riccio, general manager of the Kent State hotel, said the new hotel is "beautiful fit" in downtown Kent. He foresees it having a great impact on the city and university.
"With everything that's going on and having the hotel here, there now is a vibrant operation that really supplements all of the businesses and allows those who have either been to Kent or would like to come to Kent to stay downtown and walk to pretty much anywhere that they would like to go," Riccio said.
Riccio said the look and feel of the guest rooms can be described as "comfortable and boutique-like," and the front desk, restaurant and lounge area share a large open space.
"It's a very open space and it gives guests a very open feel with a lot of energy and activity and excitement going on in one location," he said.
The hotel's restaurant, "Zenas," is named after Zenas Kent, father of Kent's namesake Marvin Kent, and will feature a constantly changing menu of daily, weekly and seasonal specials, with a few core entrees, Riccio said.
Kent City Manager Dave Ruller called the hotel the "final anchor" of Kent's revitalization project. He said that although the site held many challenges through construction, its design gives it an "unmistakably Kent" charm.
"What had been a pipedream for decades can now be counted as one of downtown Kent's premier assets and stands as a monument to the spirt of city-university collaboration," Ruller said. "Thousands of decisions went into the design and construction of the building and the university, the Alumni Foundation and the architects delivered a remarkable product on a small and angular parcel.
About 40 people including banquet staff are employed by the hotel. About 50 events, small and large, have been lined up for the future, Riccio said, noting that staff has undergone thorough training to accommodate guests.
"Our goal is to anticipate guests' needs and exceed expectations," he said. "Our staff is being trained at every opportunity to be able to read a guest, understand what they might be looking for and then deliver service at a higher level."
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