Rockwell Hall, home of Kent State’s School of Fashion and Merchandising, is expected to be renovated before the fall 2021 semester.

In part of Phase I of the Gateway Master Plan, Rockwell Hall will expand to include 20,000 to 30,000 square feet of instructional space.

The main attraction of the project is a lecture hall estimated to house at least 500 students. Project Manager Beth Ruffing said it will be multi-purpose and could be used for runway shows or even as a ballroom.

“It will be able to seat up to 500 for [specific events], but it’s going to be flexible so it can serve other purposes," Ruffing said.

The capacity rivals that of spaces located at the student center. It outperforms the KIVA’s max capacity of 410, but won’t surpass that of the ballroom, which holds 856 people if used as an auditorium.

Ruffing said the larger classroom will be sufficient for general classes which may enroll over 200 students.

“We have a lot of 200, 250, 300, even 400-seat classrooms and the next jump is [around] 800,” Ruffing said. “We don’t have anything in that range… they need that size of a venue when they have their runway shows.”

A possible location for the new addition could be the elevator next to Rockwell Hall.

“What we’ve been talking to the consultants about is a desire to engulf that in the new addition,” Ruffing said. “It’s an eyesore, and it’s right where we want the front door of the building.”

On Oct. 17, Kent State interviewed three architectural/engineering firms for the project. Ruffing said a selection has been made but cannot be announced until approved by the administration.

“We put in our recommendations and are pretty excited about it,” Ruffing said. “The three firms interviewed are all local firms … we’ll have the control of having local architects we have worked with, [plus] the input of designers.”

The project coincides with plans for a new College of Business Administration building to anchor Front Campus as a distinct entrance to Kent State. The project aims for Front Campus to be more inviting to residents and students while strengthening the relationship between the university and downtown Kent.

Extensions to the esplanade will create a sense of direction leading from the College of Architecture and Engineering to Rockwell Hall.

Ruffing expects the renovations to be completed for classes starting fall 2021.

Rockwell Hall was Kent State’s first library, preceding the current library which stands above the rest of the university. Rockwell originally housed offices for several departments, including admissions, financial aid and ROTC.

The School of Fashion and Merchandising has been one of Kent’s fastest-growing programs and has also been ranked worldwide as one of the best colleges for fashion design. Fashion-schools.org ranked Kent State as the fourth best fashion school in the country for 2019.

Contact Nick Lavrisiuk at nlavrisi@kent.edu.

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