Building permits issued, businesses progressing in downtown Kent

Amanda Crumm

Five new businesses were granted building permits to begin construction and move into spaces as part of Kent’s downtown redevelopment project.

Four of the five tenants will be located in the new buildings on Erie and Water streets, which are being built by Fairmount Properties, a Cleveland real estate developer and management firm.

Panini’s Bar and Grill and Insomnia Cookies will both be located on the ground floor of the Davey Tree building located at 295 S. Water St.

UniversiTEES and Gracylane will be on the first floor of the AMETEK building on 100 E. Erie St.

Adam Branscomb, Fairmount Properties project manager, said he anticipates most of the new businesses will be open by the end of summer.

DIVERSA — a Kent-based advertising, public relations and market research firm with accounts throughout the U.S., according to its website — will be relocating its offices to the third floor of Acorn Alley II.

Acorn Alley and Acorn Corner developer Ron Burbick said DIVERSA is expected to be open by August.

UniversiTEES provides licensed apparel and merchandise for colleges and universities throughout the Midwest, including The Ohio State University, Indiana State University and the University of Kentucky.

Gracylane is a women’s gift boutique, which carries the full line of Vera Bradley products, jewelry and home décor items. But Tom Gober, owner of Graceylane and a Kent State alumnus, said he plans to adjust his product line to more closely target Kent State students and the Kent community.

There are three other Graceylane locations, in Warren, Niles and Hudson’s First & Main shopping district.

Insomnia Cookies is a cookie delivery business offering late-night service with multiple locations near college campuses such as Yale University, New York University and Penn State University. It offers online ordering and delivery of cookies, brownies and other baked goods.

Renne Sarnecky, Insomnia Cookies marketing manager, said Seth Berkowitz founded Insomnia Cookies in 2003 when he was a student at Penn State as a late-night option for hungry students.

“We will be offering Kent a late-night delivery option to satisfy their sweet tooth — warm, fresh cookies from the oven right to their door until 3 a.m.,” Sarnecky said. “The students will love the concept and, of course, the cookies.”

Sarnecky said Insomnia Cookies is very engaged with all the college campuses its other locations are near. She said there will be a grand opening celebration when the Kent store is completed, and she encourages students to visit the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages for free cookie coupons and discounts.

Panini’s Bar and Grill is a Cleveland-based chain with 17 current locations throughout northeast Ohio. It is known for its overstuffed sandwiches and pizza, but it also offers a variety of appetizers, wraps and other items.

Angelia Niederhelman, a faculty member in the mathematics department, said she is excited to hear about these new businesses coming to Kent.

“I love to eat and shop, so new restaurants and stores are always good to me,” Niederhelman said.

These new additions are part of a large-scale renovation plan to unite Kent State with the City of Kent.

“This is a multi-building complex,” Branscomb said. “The goal is to create a pedestrian-scaled environment where you park once and you enjoy dinner, enjoy shopping and spend some time recreating. It’s really an attempt to bring people downtown and have them stay while serving a number of their needs for both goods and services.”

Branscomb said he thinks the esplanade extension and the PARTA transit center are both critical to drawing in customers for the new businesses.

“What the esplanade does is consolidate all pedestrian and bike travel along one central pathway and create much easier access to the downtown,” he said.

Branscomb said there are still two vacant rental spaces in the Fairmount Properties buildings.

A third building will begin construction in October on the corner of Depeyster and Erie streets, and it is expected to be completed summer of 2013, Branscomb said. The floor designs for the third building are not finalized yet, but Fairmount has already filled some of the vacancies. The upper floors of the building will be apartments, and the ground floor will be filled with retail businesses, including Bricco, a pub-style eatery.

Branscomb said he thinks there is a high demand for “higher quality retail, restaurant and office space” in the area, and this project will draw traffic from neighboring towns that do not have the “kind of authentic downtown experience that Kent can offer.”

“This project is the culmination of many years of planning, and we appreciate the opportunity to be part of the exciting transformation of downtown Kent,” Branscomb said.

Contact Amanda Crumm at [email protected].