Kent business, civic and education leaders will take another step today to revitalize downtown.
An 11 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony for 42,000 square feet of construction is the last planned phase in the building pipeline.
For 36 months, the public-private partnership has been working to breathe new life into the sleepy downtown.
“We knew that our downtown had good bones and we knew that we had good partners,” city Economic Development Director Dan Smith said. “But you never know until the brick and mortar begins taking shape.”
With $107 million in federal, state, local and private money, Fairmount Properties of Cleveland, the city of Kent and other partners have razed old, underused buildings, erected new ones and retooled others on a triangle of city blocks.
The Davey Tree Resource Group and AMETEK’s Technical and Industrial Products Division became the anchor tenants, bringing a total of about 200 employees into new corporate offices. The companies signed 15-year leases.
At the same time, 38 new shops, stores, restaurants and bars have opened in the new Kent downtown.
Businesses include everything from the Newdle Bar, a restaurant that caters to the exploding interest in Asian cuisine, to the Market Path shop that offers fair trade products.
Negotiations are under way for 10 more stores, Smith said.
Meanwhile, the first public projects will come on line this spring.
The first phase of the Kent Central Gateway Transit Center will open this month. The 364-space garage will provide much needed parking for the newly bustling downtown.
The Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority will begin to use the facility for bus transfers in June, Smith said.
The city is looking for tenants for shops on the ground floor of the Transit Center, and Smith is optimistic, saying: “There’s a lot of interest.”
The new 94-room Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center will open in June. It is owned by Kent State’s not-for-profit Development Foundation and will be operated by Riley Hotel Group in Medina.
The hotel will serve tourists, parents visiting their offspring at KSU and visitors who come into town for academic meetings.
By the time classes start this fall, Kent State will unveil its contribution to the redevelopment: a one-eighth-mile extension of the brick-and-concrete esplanade, or walkway, that already winds around campus.
KSU is investing more than $3 million to build the walkway from the fledgling hotel, through a modest residential neighborhood to Rockwell and Franklin halls on the west edge of campus.
The university also will erect a signature College of Architecture and Environmental Sciences building on the esplanade. KSU officials are deciding among four proposals for the $40 million building.
While the architecture project inches ahead, Fairmount Properties of Cleveland will be working on the Building C project across from the fledgling hotel.
The company is one of the biggest investors in the new Kent downtown, spending a total of about $30 million.
The new building will be home to a Bricco’s restaurant on the ground floor — the restaurant also has sites in Akron and Cleveland — and 32 upscale apartments on the four top floors. The apartments will cost about $1.40 per square foot, or $950 to $1,650 per month.
The $6.5 million Project C is part of Fairmount’s Kent College Town, “your gateway to the Kent experience,” the company says on its website.
The city has a fourth piece of property, called “site plan D,” for which it is looking for tenants, Smith said.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.