The University of Akron said Wednesday it will convert Quaker Square Inn — the campus-owned hotel in downtown Akron — to all-student housing this summer.
Ted Curtis, UA vice president for capital planning and facilities management, said the occupancy rate for the Quaker Square Inn has been low because it doesn’t boast a marquee name or use a national reservation system.
City officials said the loss of the Quaker Square Inn to the public was a blow but not the end of the world. They say this ups the ante on the need for a new hotel downtown.
“Right now, any loss of rooms creates a problem,” said Bob Bowman, Akron’s deputy mayor of economic development.
“I don’t know that it is a crisis. The market has adjusted and gone out to the suburbs to get rooms,” he said. “What it does is [it] limits the capabilities with the convention center and activities downtown.”
UA bought the iconic shopping, hotel and entertainment complex, once the heart of Quaker Oats’ cereal business, from Jay Nusbaum for $22.7 million in 2007 — about a year before his death — for student use.
When city of Akron officials objected to UA absorbing one of the only two hotels in downtown Akron, the university agreed to reserve some of the rooms for the public.
Since then, the number of public rooms has edged down from 95 to 67, and on June 30 will be eliminated entirely.
RDA Hotel Management of Fairlawn, which has managed the inn for several years, has notified the 10 Quaker Square employees of jobs at other RDA properties, which include the Hilton and Doubletree hotels in Fairlawn and the Sheraton Suites in Cuyahoga Falls.
Company President Rennick Andreoli could not be reached for comment.
Once the facility closes to the public, UA will invest $700,000 to convert the rooms to student use, Curtis said. That includes everything from revising the locking systems to installing student furniture to securing balcony windows for another 100 students starting next fall.
That will bring the number of students at Quaker Square to about 360, the university said. However, housing is no longer the hot-button issue that it once was at the university.
Every two years or so, UA has been opening a new residence hall as it sought to become more of a residential campus. Its newest, South Hall, opened in September for 500 students.
At the same time, private developers have built three apartment complexes around campus and two more, including one on property formerly owned by the Akron Beacon Journal, are in progress.
The boom in construction is meeting the demand, said John Messina, assistant vice president for student engagement and success and also chief housing officer.
He said last fall was the first time since he joined UA in 2004 that the university could accommodate every request for housing. Today, about 3,300 students are housed in UA residence halls.
In the meantime, UA has been looking at the future of older residence halls, such as Gallucci — a former Holiday Inn — and Grant as it considers a new master plan for campus, Curtis said. No decisions have been made, but the consultant, Sasaki Associates, recommended closing Quaker Square to the public.
The conversion of Quaker Square will leave the aging Akron City Centre Hotel, a former Radisson, as the only downtown hotel.
Beacon Journal staff writer Stephanie Warsmith contributed to this report. Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.