Phase two of Acorn Alley to be complete by fall-McLean/amended REVIEWED

Jackie McLean

A year and a half after Acorn Alley opened, plans for downtown construction are continuing.

Since the creation of Acorn Alley, Ron Burbick, local entrepreneur and philanthropist, has thought about expanding the project.

“It will give students much more of a reason to come to downtown other than going into a bar or having a tattoo put on,” Burbick said.

Acorn Alley II will include three new buildings on Erie Street that will be connected to Acorn Alley by a cross alley. The buildings will include several restaurants and small shops. Wild Earth Outfitters and a coffee shop will be added as well.

“We have a number of student-run businesses in the whole Acorn Alley facility,” Burbick said. “We’re trying to partner as much as we can with groups from the university to truly make it a community and university-wide adventure.”

As a local resident of Twin Lakes for 35 years, Burbick’s creation is his way of giving back to the community. He is also adding luxury condominiums to the top floor of each building and does not expect them to be ready until the fall.

Keeping the creation of Acorn Alley local, Burbick has been working with architect Doug Fuller and the Fuller Design Group since the beginning of the project. Burbick said that phase one of Acorn Alley cost him about $7 million to create while phase two will cost him between $5 and $6 million.

Friday, the Department of Public Service announced that South Depeyster Street and West Erie Street would be closed Monday, until the project is finished on the expected date of July 1.

As a result, the Department of Public Service has issued specific construction plans in order to accommodate the public and its safety. City Engineer Jim Bowling said the construction plans for Acorn Alley II have been created to allow minimal inconvenience to travelers. Detour signs will be available for the closed routes and the sidewalks on both streets will be open to the public. He said the main problem the public will face is trying to park downtown.

Although some community members are curious to see the second phase of Acorn Alley, many are concerned about the potential traffic problems the construction is going to cause.

Senior English student Olivia Bruyere is one of the many local residents that will be affected by the construction. Bruyere said she has already seen problems with people trying to get to downtown Kent while college classes are in session and the added construction will make the situation worse.

“Construction is annoying,” Bruyere said. “The alternate routes will probably be blown off, leaving the traffic more congested.”

Although Bruyere is not looking forward to the construction problems, she is excited for the second phase of Acorn Alley to be complete. She said the addition will be a positive impact on Kent’s economy. However, she said it would be nice if there were more parking options available to the public. For Bruyere, this should be the city’s first priority.

Jonathan Chrest, a senior environmental geography student, is more optimistic about the construction.

“There are ways of getting around the areas that are under construction,” Chrest said. “It’s not so much an inconvenience as it is a slightly longer commute to your destination.”

Chrest is a commuter student from Ravenna and has been a resident of Portage County for 22 years.

Phase two of Acorn Alley is not the only new development being created in downtown Kent. Several additional developments are expected to raise Kent’s economy and provide a number of new jobs.

Daniel Smith, the economic development director, said the completion of phase two will lead up to the creation of double-sided retail shops on both sides of Erie Street. These developments will not be completed until fall 2012, costing the city about $80 million of publicly and privately funded money.

In addition, the Kent Central Gateway will be built. This multimodal transit facility will include about 350 parking spaces and a bus terminal transfer station to Akron, Cleveland and other cities. Kent received a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the project.

These new developments could provide a boost to the economy. Smith said new construction opportunities, as well as 500 to 600 jobs, could be created once all of the buildings are finished.