City council plans to move forward with downtown renovations

Nick Walton

City Council voted on several motions involving the downtown revitalization project at its meeting Wednesday night.

Two days after city officials celebrated the signing of AMETEK and the Davey Tree Expert Company as anchor tenants for the city’s downtown urban renewal plan area, council members voted to buy the current AMETEK property on Lake Street for $106,000.

The purchase of the current property was part of the 15-year lease AMETEK signed.

“We’re delighted that we’re able to complete the deal,” said Dave Ruller, Kent city manager. “For us the ability to get that property as an asset in our inventory to be able to market and use as an a potential industrial redevelopment site combined with that being the linchpin to sealing the deal with AMETEK and getting them downtown.”

Ruller said the property is currently going through an environmental assessment process that lasts over multiple seasons to allow industrial properties to be redeveloped.

Another concern discussed involving the lease was the issue of parking.

Jim Bowling, Kent city engineer, said the city has to ensure a certain number of parking spots for the employees of the two tenants because the city is leasing the property. While employees will use a certain number of parking spaces during the day, Bowling said the spaces will be available to the public at night, including spaces in PARTA’s multimodal facility.

“The city wanted to maintain as much control over its public parking resources as possible so that when development is done and people are coming to town and using it we need flexibility to say ‘We need more spots for retail users, how can I get those retail spots,’” Bowling said. “On the adjacent streets we would make it so that those spots are only available to park an hour at a time because it’s a retail need.”

The council also approved an ordinance that authorized the cooperative agreement between the city and PARTA to provide for the construction of the multimodal parking facility. Councilman John Kuhar said the parking deck will save money because it is part of Kent Gateway Center instead of being an individual parking deck.

“Parking decks are very expensive, so this is our opportunity to get a first-class parking deck at a discount store price,” Kuhar said.

The cost of the upper deck is $4 million, and the lease is for 50 years.

After purchasing the property on 238 E. Main St. for $95,000 last Friday, PARTA still needs to purchase one property to start building the multimodal facility. Bryan Smith, PARTA planning director, said negotiations for the property would not delay the schedule of construction because PARTA has orders of possession from the owner of the property.

Smith said PARTA initially expected to pay $1.5 million to acquire all 12 properties needed to start construction but the company has paid $2 million at this point. Smith added that PARTA cannot exceed the $20 million budget granted by federal grants.

“No matter what the cost of (the final property), if it costs more, that just means we’ll have to reduce the scope of the building or the scope of the project in some way to compensate for that,” Smith said.

Contact Nick Walton at [email protected].