Tracking downtown Kent development

Graphic by Rachael Chillcott.

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Other businesses moving into Acorn Alley II are the Kent State’s School of Fashion Design and Merchandising store, Laziza Mediterranean Restaurant and a second unnamed restaurant to be located on the second floor of the building.

Ron Burbick, founder and developer of Acorn Alley, said all the businesses in the alley are locally owned.

A third building disconnected from the other two Acorn Alley structures will face the stamped brick Acorn Alley plaza and will house a photography studio and office space.

Burbick said he hopes to open the plaza between the buildings to vendor kiosks on the weekend. In the middle of the courtyard will be a 6-foot-tall sculpted metal black squirrel.

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected].

Kent Central Gateway

PARTA is bringing significant amounts of parking and, of course, buses to downtown with the construction of its new transit center.

Work on the Kent Central Gateway began after PARTA razed the former Car Parts Warehouse on South Depeyster Street in early July and named Quandel, a Pennsylvania-based company, as its construction manager in August.

The $26 million transit center along Erie Street between South Depeyster Street and Haymaker Parkway will have 300 parking spaces, 10 bus bays and 18,000 square feet of retail and office space.

There will be a fee to use PARTA’s parking deck, but a cost is yet to be determined. The anticipated completion date for the project is the end of 2012.

Contact Taylor Rogers at [email protected].

Anticipated retail and restaurants to fill spaces the facility are Aladdin’s, a Lebanese restaurant; Bricco, a pub-style eatery; Dave’s Cosmic Subs; Panini’s Bar and Grill; Palmieri Salon; Shop 42, a clothing boutique; The Market Path, a home decor location; Einstein Bros. Bagels; Rockin’ Taco; Asian Chao Restaurant; and Nature’s Table, a health-conscious wrap and smoothie spot.

The projected move-in date for Davey Tree is the end of June 2012, with AMETEK to follow in November 2012 said Jim Bowling, the city engineer.

But Fairmount Properties isn’t just involved with development downtown. Randy Ruttenburg, a managing principal at Fairmount, recently confirmed the company is looking to purchase the old DuBois Book Store property. He said the purchase is still in the planning stages, so it is too early to tell what the replacement property will be.

“We’re working collaboratively with the university to determine together what’s the most appropriate use for that property, whether it be a private development or more institutionally related to the campus itself,” Ruttenberg said.

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected].

Kent State Hotel and Conference Center

The Kent State Hotel and Conference Center is expected to be complete by Spring 2013.

The City of Kent, Kent State and Pizzuti Companies broke ground on the $15-million project in September.

Gene Finn, vice president for institutional advancement, said the boutique-style, 95-room facility will be a full service hotel for the city.

Although Finn said there were many chains who expressed interest in partnering with Kent State, the University Foundation decided to keep the hotel independent.

He said there are three main reasons behind doing so: cost, freedom from contracts, and the ability to keep Kent State on the name.

Joining with a franchise would cost about $250,000 a year, and the university would likely have to sign a 10-year contract.

A national chain would also want their name predominantly on the flag.

“Obviously the real driving force for the hotel is the university,” Finn said. “So to have the university’s name attached to it is sort of a critical component to it.”

Partnering with a franchise could be an option down the road, but it’s not something Finn sees happening.

He said the hotel is just one component of the changes coming to Kent.

“I think you should look at it as the whole downtown development,” Finn said. “That whole downtown redevelopment project between the PARTA transportation center, the hotel, acorn alley 2 that’s being completed now, the whole Fairmount project… I think it’s going to be transformational.”

Contact Lydia Coutré at [email protected].

New traffic lights installed

New traffic signals and crosswalks along state Route 59, from Middlebury to Horning Road, will be operating by the end of the year, said Jim Bowling, engineer for the City of Kent.

They were originally set to be up and running by September, but Bowling said he and the contractor are still disagreeing on what exactly caused the delay.

Part of a $3.2-million project, the signals will synchronize to keep traffic congestion to a minimum. Ideally, a driver would be able to travel from the east end to the west end of state Route 59 with minimal stops.

“When it’s all said and done, the traffic on 59 will run much smoother, especially than it is now,” Bowling said.

Cameras would be set up with the signals to monitor when a car is at the intersection. The signals would then be tied to a central traffic control system at the fire station, and a traffic engineer will monitor it remotely.

“The system takes in data,” Bowling said, “and then (the engineer) can assess the data and find better ways to modify the timing on the signals, move the loop detectors around so that we can be as efficient as possible with the technology that we’ll have once this is done.”

The new crosswalks will have Americans with Disabilities Act accessible curb ramps and will have audio signal heads. Bowling said the audio would only sound when alerting a person that it is time to cross.

The crosswalks would also display the amount of time a person has to cross the street.

The $3.2 million was funded through several grants, Bowling said.

Contact Taylor Rogers at [email protected].

South Lincoln Apartment Complex

Construction is already underway on South Lincoln Street for a new 569-bed apartment complex.

Edwards Communities Development Co., a Columbus-based firm, began demolishing houses in early September to make way for The Province at Kent, which is to be completed for Fall 2012.

Two residents of High Street filed a civil suit against the city in June, claiming approval of the apartment complex went against plans the city had to avoid invasive student housing in the neighborhood. The city moved to dismiss the lawsuit, but in the meantime, construction continues.

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected].