Davey Tree begins construction on its arboretum and training facilities

Davey Tree shared designers' renderings of the latest phase of its headquarters expansion. Submitted image

The Davey Tree Expert Company has begun construction on a 180-acre research and training campus in Kent, part of a major expansion of the company’s corporate headquarters.

Davey already revealed one phase of the expansion in November. This next development will be more visible and accessible to the public, replacing the Franklin Elementary School and Oak Knolls Golf Course with an arboretum and other amenities.

On Feb. 21, Dan Joy, executive vice president and assistant to the president at Davey Tree, gave a presentation to the Kent Rotary Club about the progress of the SEED campus, which stands for Science, Employee Education and Development.

The presentation took the form of an informal Q&A. I’ve paraphrased the questions and answers to make it easier to follow the information:

What are the features of the SEED campus?

The master plan includes a 30-acre arboretum that will be available for the public to enjoy. It’s located along the south edge of the property, bordering the River Bend community. There will also be a hike and bike trail connecting to the Portage Parks’ Hike and Bike Trail. There will be a repurposed barn, which was torn down and will be reconstructed piece by piece for events. There will be increased classroom space for Davey employee training, along with a climbing and training center. They’re striving for certifications in sustainability.

Renderings and maps are not final, Davey Tree said. Submitted image

What’s the progress of the development?

Davey officially started construction on Feb. 20. Target completion date for the building and a good chunk of the arboretum is the end of 2024 to start occupying the building at the beginning of 2025.

Why did they decide on this location for their SEED campus?

Davey’s roots are in Kent and their desire to stay in Kent was strong. When that property became available, they grabbed it and found a great way to use it.

Why now?

Davey is growing. The company has doubled in the last 10 years and revenue is on its way past $1.5 billion per year. So they have a high need to expand and train their workforce. “We want to make Davey the go-to place to work,” Joy said.

What are the benefits to the community?

“Well, it’s not going to be a retail shopping center or a multi-family apartment complex,” he said with a laugh. Apart from that, Davey designed their master plan with the intent that it will be available for public use. They are also engaged with Kent State and Hiram College, which could use the facility for their programs in the green industry. Davey plans to host significant events, including industry gatherings and international tree-climbing competitions, that will all benefit local businesses.

What kinds of training will happen there?

Davey has a culture of investing in its employees. They bring in people from across the U.S. and Canada to the Davey Institute of Tree Sciences, where they spend a month in Kent learning what amounts to a semester of college education.

How much of the land is in city limits?

All of it. Davey acquired the old Franklin School site and recently annexed the rest of the site to the city of Kent from Franklin Township. (Read about the annexation here.)

What kinds of trees will be at the arboretum?

Davey wants the arboretum to be a destination for visitors. They will have over 500 different kinds of trees, including an Ohio native garden and other spaces dedicated to different categories of trees.

What will they do about increased traffic to the area?

Davey is in agreement with the city of Kent to study the traffic patterns and determine some options for what the North Mantua Street area will look like. There will be community meetings on the subject. The school district, the River Bend community, Davey and the city are the various stakeholders.

Will they use the bricks salvaged from Franklin Elementary for anything?

The company saved about 100 bricks from Franklin Elementary because most were unusable, but they plan to build something with them, such as a wall or ornamental piece.

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Ben Wolford is the editor and publisher of The Portager.