As Kenyon begins the process of formalizing future changes to its own campus, the College has already broken ground on its signature Mount Vernon initiative, the renovation of the Buckeye Candy and Tobacco building.
Columbus-based construction firm Elford, Inc. began the $6 million renovation last month at the Buckeye Candy building, located at 400 South Main Street in Mount Vernon; Elford also renovated part of Ransom Hall last summer.
The building will open by the start of second semester next year, according to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman.
The building, named for the Buckeye Candy and Tobacco Company that formerly operated there, will house Kenyon’s Office for Community Engagement and a new classroom and film studio space for the Department of Dance, Drama and Film.
The nonprofit Science Play Initiative, or SPI Spot, will also be headquartered in the Buckeye building. SPI Spot is a local organization not affiliated with Kenyon but that has partnered with Kenyon in the past to host science and technology fairs for middle and high schoolers.
The College announced plans to purchase the building in February 2015 and the Board of Trustees approved the purchase that April.
Gund Partnership, the architecture and planning firm Graham Gund ’63 heads, designed the renovation, according to Seth Millam, construction project manager for the College.
The building is being stabilized, as part of the foundation has settled, or sunk into the ground, over time, according to Millam. The interior is completely gutted and Elford is working to shore up the building before it replaces the roof later this spring.
The College initially announced the building would open for classes in the fall of 2016, but Millam said the age of the building caused some challenges in the design process.
Most of the work, he said, will be done this summer.
Kohlman said he expected the renovation to be complete by Dec. 1 of this year, and the SPI Spot Program and Community Engagement offices will be filled that month. Film classes held in the space will begin in January 2017.
SPI Spot and the Office for Community Partnerships will occupy the first floor. Director of Community Partnerships Jennifer Odenweller is excited to make the move from Bailey House to the Buckeye building. The office, which President Sean Decatur founded in March of last year, serves to connect the Kenyon community with the wider Mount Vernon and Knox County communities.
“Part of the strategy in locating this newly developed office in downtown Mount Vernon is to be out in the community and be an obvious community partner that people can look to as a resource and know where to go and how to create new conversations,” said Odenweller, who previously served as the executive director of the United Way of Knox County. She expects student workers and volunteers will work with the office at the Buckeye building, and that the office will connect students and faculty to community members for research and collaboration on projects.
The Department of Dance, Drama and Film will occupy the majority of the space. According to Assistant Professor of Film Jonathan Sherman, the renovation includes a studio space for constructing sets that extends up through two stories, as well as two classrooms and a computer lab for post-production work.
Students will be able to take shuttles directly to the building for classes, though Sherman said that the College has not yet worked out these details. He said most classes will likely be seminars or 80-minute classes, because the transportation-time logistics will have to fit with students’ schedules.
The space will feature several private rooms for senior film majors working on their theses and an office and storage space for all the film department’s equipment. Sherman said the film professors will not move their offices off campus, though he will share an office space in the building with Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell. Sherman wants to keep the department based on Kenyon’s home campus, though the department is speaking with the Office of the Provost about hiring someone both to manage the space and possibly to teach some classes.
The new studio space will help replace the space the department will lose with the impending demolition of Murnen House, a College-owned property behind the Kenyon Athletic Center that film students use for shooting scenes. The house, according to Sherman, has deteriorated to the point that it is unsafe to film in.
Beyond serving Kenyon students, Sherman said Kenyon will work with Mount Vernon schools to provide opportunities for students to use the film space and equipment during summer programs and possibly intern on Kenyon student films. “It’s going to be one of the finer production facilities in central Ohio,” Sherman said. He anticipates that in addition to serving Mount Vernon residents, the building will be available for rent to professional film crews during the summer. “The expectation and the hope is that this facility will bring broader benefit to the Mount Vernon community as a whole,” Sherman said.
By bringing film students into Mount Vernon, Sherman hopes students will take advantage of the city for filming as well. “The hope is they will see Mount Vernon as a beautiful place to film,” Sherman said.
Kohlman said the College expects the presence of the renovated building will have a rejuvenating effect on the surrounding area.
“That building was an empty structure right there on Main Street in Mount Vernon,” he said. “Now it’s going to be a lively, active place that draws people to it.”