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Education


Quaker Square's role in downtown Akron may change, again
The University of Akron listening to proposals for hotel development
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Once a Crowne Plaza hotel, Quaker Sq may yet attract another national chain.
Courtesy of Rudell
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In The Region:

The University of Akron just sold one Akron icon – the 74-year-old Rubber Bowl Stadium.

This year the school may convert another city icon – Quaker Square. The university bought the hotel complex in 2007 to use as a residence hal,l but that use might be changing. WKSU' Mark Urycki has details.

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Akron officials were not too happy when the University of Akron purchased the Quaker Square Crowne Plaza Hotel. It threatened to take one of only two downtown hotels off the market.
In the end, the university kept 65 rooms of the hotel for public use, but 196 rooms were converted to dormitories.

Now, that may change.

"We think there are a lot of opportunities," says school President Luis Proenza. "We’ve had several inquiries from potential operators. We’ve had some suggestions from Sasaki & Associates related to our new master plan.”

The university has been building new residence halls and rapidly updating its campus for the past few years. That and a slowdown in enrollment have far lessened the need for a residence hall on the west side of the railroad tracks that separate the school from Akron’s downtown business district.

Best use?
University Vice President Ted Curtis is the so-called “university architect.” He was part of the team that converted the old Quaker Oats grain silos into a hotel in the early 1970’s so, “It’s sort of my baby.”

The university paid $22.7 million for Quaker Square, which was cheaper than building a new residence hall. But Curtis knows the building can play a role downtown.

“It’s right downtown adjacent to the convention center. To me, ... this really needs to be the convention center hotel for downtown Akron and the downtown Akron hotel.”

Most University of Akron freshmen are required to live on campus and  Proenza is not counting out further demand for more dorm rooms.

 “We’re also looking to the knowledge that people who live on campus their chances for success improve, so we’re exploring whether to act like Ohio State has and to require sophomores also to live on campus.”

Concrete walls and floors make them pretty much fire proof and sound proof.  Even with a national chain hotel presence, Proenza says student dorms could be maintained in the building.

A unique history and use
There’s probably not a dorm or hotel anywhere in the country quite like Quaker Square.  Guests sleep in round rooms, 24 feet in diameter, that were once grain silos. Architect Ted Curtis jokes that it went from storing oats to storing folks. 

And restaurants and some shops are still located in the adjoining complex that was built in 1885. It had been a tourist draw containing 35 shops in the 1980’s.

Curtis says the university is working on a request for proposals from developers to gauge demand.  The school also has undertaken a feasibility study on all of its housing needs.  It’s expected to be complete late this summer. 

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Turn the whole building into a dorm and build.a bridge across the railroad tracks to connect it with campus. Downtown already has the ramada and plenty of sites for a developer to build a purpose built hotel. Hotel brands prefer prototype building structures, not converted grain silos.


Posted by: Russ on February 9, 2013 2:02AM
How about the university focus more on parking areas. For example the parking lot that was put up a few years ago is A) and eyesore, B) a terrible waste of space, C) poorly designed, and D) an enormous chuck of money that the university did not need to pay. I wrote a paper when I was at the university, class of 2010, and in that paper I explored the fact that the university took out over 1,000 parking spaces to make the new Stadium fit on campus bringing the total number of available spots to just under 10,000. Yet, they built a stadium that holds 30,000. These are the same people who are educating our youth. They apparently assume that every space on campus would be utilized, some are handicapped spaces only, and that everyone would travel at least 3 in a car. This as they found out did not happen. This is the same issue again. We want to buy/build, but we don't want to think. They should have rehabbed the Rubber bowl and used it until they could purchase more land around campus. Finally I was on campus when the Quaker Square hotel was purchased. They actually paid students their housing and a bonus back to move off campus. Now just because there isn't the need they think there won't be a need any time soon? Typical UA. Never think further than the pocketbook. -DWK


Posted by: DWK (Dublin, OH) on February 4, 2013 6:02AM
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