By Rachel Leber
AKRON, Ohio — Construction is underway at Stark State’s new Akron Campus. The new campus is currently ahead of schedule with completion slated for spring 2018 — originally projected for September 2018.
The 68,414-square-foot building is being erected in response to local demand for a more accessible two-year community school. Stark State College is a public school that has been serving students from Summit County at its main campus in North Canton since its inception in 1960. As the Summit population has continued to increase, however, city and county officials have been asking for a community college presence closer to home, according to Robyn Steinmetz, director of marketing and communications at Stark State.
Stark State offers a variety of two-year associate degrees and certificate programs. Students will be able to begin any of the school’s degree programs on the new campus, and, until the new building opens in the spring, they can start programs at the temporary Akron site that opened last spring.
“Stark State College Akron is the answer to the many requests we have received for affordable, accessible, quality, transferable education that a community college can offer,” said Steinmetz. “The new facility will allow us to continue serving Summit County residents in a more convenient location to meet their needs.”
The architect on the project is FMD Architects of Fairlawn, Ohio, with Fairlawn-based Welty Building Company Ltd. serving as general contractor. The project budget is almost $16 million. After announcing the future campus in May 2016, the construction team broke ground on Dec. 12, 2016.
In response to the temporary Akron site and to the new campus being constructed, enrollment has already increased by 84 percent since the spring. Stark State officials hope to enroll as many as 5,000 students at the Akron location within five years of its opening.
The new building will be used for classrooms, computer labs, offices and a bookstore, leaving the third floor as open space for future expansion. The building will initially house 21 classrooms, including a handful equipped with computers on three floors, including the basement. Many of the rooms will have large windows, some of which will offer views of downtown Akron. The third floor will remain vacant when the building opens in the spring.
The first floor will feature a large, first-floor, glassed-in common area with abundant natural light. The area will be open to the second floor, where there will be panoramic views of downtown. The space opposite the common area on the first floor will feature the new bookstore. In addition, the new campus will feature a large parking area with 600 spaces in front of the building’s main entrance off Union Street. A cement pad next to a loading dock off the basement will allow for visits of the college’s Welding on Wheels mobile welding lab.
Along with the new building, there’s currently room on the site for two to three more buildings when and if that becomes necessary in the future. Additionally, the college may purchase an additional 2.12 acres of land to create an entrance off of East Market Street, according to Steinmetz.