It’s been a couple of weeks since we relocated from the former City Hall building on Depeyster Street and moved into our respective new temporary locations.
Temporary Relocation Summary
– Mayor/City Clerk/HR Manager into the Fire Station on Depeyster
– City Manager/Law Director into the Police Station on Day Street
– Budget and Finance/Utility Billing into the Service Administration Building on Overholt Drive
– Health Department into the Kent State University Schwartz Center
Moving is never easy but all-in-all the transition has been remarkably smooth for the staff and hopefully for our customers too. Everyone seems to be settling in to their new routines in their new locations so I thought it was a good time to circle back and share the latest news on our efforts to find a permanent location for City Admin to recommend to City Council.
When we first started talking about selling the former City Hall building we were hoping to make a single move — but that was wishful thinking since after a fair amount of research and discussion it became clear that a “perfect” permanent location didn’t seem to exist for a quick move so we recommended to Council to take this one-step at a time. Let’s answer the temporary relocation question first and then come back to securing a permanent location when we have the time to get this right.
With the temporary questions answered at this point, it’s time to catch up with the work that is underway with the permanent building prospects. In order to keep us moving forward with finding a more permanent home for City Administration, we hired a realty company last month to perform a market analysis on the potential marketability of the current police station site as a possible contender for our permanent home.
Here’s a summary of the realty work that is underway:
You may recall that earlier this year we had narrowed down a list of about 10 possible sites for either a temporary or a permanent home to 4 sites that seemed to be the best fit in terms of function, costs, and civic use. (Again, keep in mind that originally we blended these temporary and permanent discussions together until Council agreed to un-bundle them and tackle the temporary sites first, permanent sites second.)
The 4 best candidates for permanent sites included: 1. Current police station property (after demo of current police building) at the corner of Water and Haymaker; 2. Add-on to the new police station at Haymaker and Depeyster; 3. Old Courthouse property on Water Street; and 4. Family and Community Services Building on Gougler.
In discussing those 4 “most likely” options, there was a lot of discussion of the merits, pro’s and con’s of each site, and although Council didn’t take a formal vote to rank them at that time, the staff walked away with the sense that options #1 and #2 held the most promise and we should do some more work to flush out those options in greater detail — but again no options have been ruled-out at this point.
Option #1 seemed to satisfy a lot of the criteria that we would look for in a “good” new site, i.e., city owns the land, adjacent to city fire complex, close proximity to new police campus, close to downtown, and high visibility location. The questions that we heard for Option #1 were whether a new admin building would fit on the parcel (including adequate parking), and perhaps most importantly was a city building the highest and best use for that property.
Given it’s high visibility and proximity to downtown, many have asked whether we could sell the property for private redevelopment of office, retail or even residential space. To help us answer that question we’ve hired a realty firm that performs market analysis for private developers who make those investment decisions to better inform us what they think the marketability of the site is for each of those possible uses.
This firm also performed some work for us on the downtown project so they are familiar with the Kent market. We feel like this is a critical piece of information that we’ll need to guide our discussions moving forward. The market assessment should be back to us by the end of summer.
Once we have a better feel for the real estate market, the next step for either site will be to test the “build-ability” of each site — meaning how big a building do we need, will the building footprint fit on the site, will the parking fit, access, egress, and of course cost.
We’ll need an architect to help us answer those questions. Dave Sommers and Associates had done some preliminary work for us almost a year ago looking at these questions but we’ll need to update and further refine that work.
We didn’t want to go too far down the path for Option #1 until we were more certain that a government building is the “best” use for the property so we’ll likely wait until the realty market study is complete before we authorize too much more architectural work.
Plus, Dave Sommers is pretty busy trying to finish up the design of the new City Police Station so it will probably be another month or so before we ask them to focus on the new admin building concepts.
We don’t have any “new” news to report yet on the possible permanent sites but the two leading contenders that have been under study for almost a year remain the most likely candidates for the staff to recommend to Council and the community later this summer.