This story was originally published on July 1 and most recently updated on Aug. 26.
Middle Path’s downtown section is expected to be ready for foot traffic by the end of September, about the same time that construction begins on two new projects that are part of a slate of improvements to downtown Gambier.
Removal of the old bank building that housed the Black Box Theater happened in the second week of August. Constructing the new home of the Village Market on that site and constructing two new student residences behind Farr Hall will take a year to complete.
Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said sod will soon be placed on the final phase of the Middle Path work. The completion of the Middle Path work and the conversion of the Scott Lane pass-through into a 1,000-square-foot terrace is expected to be done in September.
The previous layout of the downtown portion of Middle Path was set in 1972. This restructuring of the path uses the same stabilized gravel applied to the north section of the path in 2014 and the south section in 2015. The surface improves drainage on Middle Path. That gravel surface must set for several weeks before pedestrians can use the path, Kohlman said.
The reconstructed downtown section’s 10 pole lamps have been placed. That section will also get six new benches, with electrical outlets and USB ports placed near the benches.
Twenty-one of the 24 trees along the path between Wiggin and Brooklyn streets were removed in June. The College had hoped to preserve more of the trees, but it was discovered that a storm drain was closer to some tree roots than expected and necessitated more tree removal, Kohlman said. Part of the reconstruction project replaced the old clay tile drain with a new concrete storm drain.
At the conclusion of the project, 30 trees will grace the downtown section of Middle Path. They will be similar to the seven varieties of oak trees planted along the northern section of the path, Kohlman said. Some of those new oak trees were damaged by the cicadas that invaded campus earlier this summer, but all those young oaks should survive, he said.
The two new buildings behind Farr Hall will each house eight students in apartment-style living similar to the North Campus Apartments. There will be a courtyard between the buildings and Farr Hall. These apartments and the apartments for 12 students being built above the new Village Market will begin to replace the 34 beds now in Farr Hall.
Work on the 5,850-square-foot Village Market building at the corner of Chase and Brooklyn streets will make Brooklyn a one-way street going westward for the duration of the construction. Students are still able to walk around that fenced construction site along the west side of Chase, Kohlman said.
Shipments will be delivered to the new building through a rear door as delivery trucks park in the alley, Kohlman said. Currently trucks park on Gaskin Avenue in front of the market to unload products, and that slows traffic through downtown.
The bank building dated to 1905 and was vacated by Peoples Bank in 1998. After the College bought the building, it served as the Office of Human Resources and then the theater. But accessibility to it was a problem.
The College had hoped to complete the Black Box Theater’s new home before students returned for fall classes. But required state permits delayed the groundbreaking on the site next to the Craft Center until the third week in August, Kohlman said.
When completed, the new theater building will be 2,000 square feet, with full accessibility, restrooms and 900 square feet of performance space. The performance and audience space in the old bank building was 750 square feet.
The new Black Box Theater fits between Gaskin Avenue and the Craft Center building nicknamed the “art barn.” The exterior of the theater will look similar to the exterior of the Craft Center. Kohlman said no trees will be removed to make way for the building.
Village Plans Proceed: The old bank building will make way for a new Village Market as additional student housing takes shape.