With restaurants and university classrooms filling once-vacant stores in downtown Mount Vernon, The Ariel Foundation has recognized the need for more housing in the area.
The foundation has contracted with Shrock Premier Construction to complete renovations of a building on the corner of South Main Street and East Gambier Street in downtown Mount Vernon. This building will be converted into 16 upscale apartments, eight of which will be given to Kenyon to house faculty and staff. The other eight will be given to Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) and the Knox Community Hospital. These lofts will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom flats.
“From the perspective of the Ariel Foundation, [the goal] is to provide more spaces for people to live, which will help to keep the burgeoning restaurant and coffee scene growing and thriving. From the college’s perspective, there are not a lot of options for folks to rent places,” President Sean Decatur said in an interview with the Collegian.
Ariel Foundation director Jen Odenweller told Knox Pages that the apartments will ideally be completed by June of 2020 so that both Kenyon and MVNU will be able to lease the spaces to faculty members for the 2020-21 academic year.
According to project coordinator Dan Houser in an interview with Knox Pages, construction was set to begin last month and will likely last nine months. Crews started by tearing up concrete, constructing interior foundations and building an elevator shaft.
“This project will quickly take shape with some exterior work occurring in the near future, interior work throughout the winter, and come spring, when the outside facade is addressed, the community will see this revitalization effort transform to enhance the downtown landscape,” Odenweller told Knox Pages.
This is not the first time The Ariel Foundation has provided Kenyon with a new space in Mount Vernon; in 2017, the Foundation gave Kenyon the money for the building which now houses the Wright Center, a multipurpose building available to Kenyon students as well as Mount Vernon community members. However, even though Kenyon completed all of the renovation for the Wright Center, Chief Business Officer of Kenyon Mark Kohlman told the Collegian that the college is “not involved in the actual construction process for the apartments.”
When asked about the cost of the apartments, Odenweller told Knox Pages that “this investment is not about a dollar figure,” but instead about a “deep commitment to our downtown and expanding the community’s social fabric through co-location of individuals and families who are connected to three unique community partners, Kenyon College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Knox Community Hospital.”