While Village Council has approved the demolition of the Black Box Theater, the College is still seeking approval from the Gambier Planning and Zoning Commission to construct a new building on the site.
The first floor of the planned building at Chase Avenue will be the site of the Village Market. The second floor will house either 12 or eight students in two apartments, depending on the final floor plan, according to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman, who represented the College at the Commission’s meeting on April 19. Square footage has already been cut from the plans in the process, according to Kohlman. The College is in the process of negotiating the plans with the Village, according to President Sean Decatur; the project is slated for completion in 2017.
The Black Box will be a topic of discussion at this week’s board of trustees meeting. “We’re at a point of really making decisions about moving the project forward,” Decatur said, in reference to plans for the Village. “For this meeting, that’s the focal point of the conversation and the focal point of any concrete decisions to be made.”
At the commission’s meeting on April 19, community members were vocal about their concerns over the impact of the construction and the move of the market. Any restriction the Village places on deliveries will jeopardize the existence of the market, due to the small size of the deliveries, according to Kohlman. Betsy Heer, a member of the commission, pointed out that construction traffic would obstruct access to the diesel pump at the gas station. Kenyon owns that building and is the largest purchaser of diesel fuel.
Some students involved in theater expressed converns over potentially losing a performance space. Jono Bornstein ’18, a member of theater troupe Brave Potato and a cappella group The Broken Legs, said tearing down the Black Box is not in the interest of the performance arts community.
“If I came to the College as a prospective student and I saw that there was no student theater to use, I think it would be a very different thought process of making a decision to come to Kenyon,” Bornstein said.
The College is working with the theater department to find what Decatur called a “functioning Black Box space,” by September. Kenyon has not decided whether the new theater, which will be handicap-accessible and feature bathrooms, will be a new building or the result of renovation, according to Decatur. He hopes to have the theater open by September, pending board approval.