Although the Kent
Church of Christ faces some painful moving issues for the new Kent safety building to go forward, it was the perceived difficulties in acquiring the properties on the original Day Street site that precipitated this and other issues, according to city officials.
Clearly, even with its environmental issues, the Day Street block was the better choice for the city. The so-called buried tank issue was not dissimilar to the one Fairmount Properties confronted in building its attractive complex bordered by South Water, South DePeyster, Erie streets and Haymaker Parkway. Fairmount yanked out the tanks and kept moving forward.
The prices demanded by some of the Day Street owners may have been outrageous, but who knows? Those demands, some of them ridiculous, might have been mitigated by persistence, patience and, importantly, a familiarity that might have worked to the city's advantage with the use of the Downtown Kent Corporation.
That did not happen. Without the communication skills of the late Dan Smith, a key player for the city of Kent, the local teamwork element and the muscle it can bring to Kent development were much diminished in this project, which is not a good sign. True, the city may have the money to build the police department, having persuaded the voters to support it, but the vision supplied to the voters by the architects was the Day Street site.
We will be interested to see a conceptual design of the College Avenue site, which will have to deal with the slope that occurs as one goes north from where the city properties now stand and drop down to the level of College Avenue.
On the positive side, the new site eliminates some of the blight on College Avenue and potentially presents a better looking face to those who use the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center. The Day Street block, had it become the site for the new police station, would have given the city an impressive complex of buildings and a small campus that would have spoken well to new arrivals in the city. Maybe someday it can become available to the city for other positive uses.
Both sites offer the city the opportunity to better centralize operations and gain efficiencies.
Building projects such as the Kent police station need to be evaluated as long-term. Problems that seem difficult today may be viewed as having been less so in the future. The fact that the Kent police have been stuck at their current site for 90 years illustrates that and makes us wonder if in 90 years the College Avenue site will be viewed as having been the better option.