PARTA receives $20 million for multi-modal facility

Anthony Holloway


President Lester Lefton, second from left, speaks with Mayor Jerry Fiala, far left, and other PARTA and city officials about the $20 million federal TIGER grant which will be used to help build PARTA’s proposed multi-modal facility in downtown Kent.

Shopping strip, parking garage set to be included in facility

After five years of planning, PARTA and its partners in the city of Kent and Kent State will move forward in plans for a multi-modal facility.

All involved breathed a sigh of relief as PARTA received $20 million through the Federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to build the proposed $21 million multi-modal facility, the next step in the Downtown Revitalization Project.

Ohio received $50 million total from the grant.

Bryan Smith, PARTA’s director of planning, said it feels good to have the money part out of the way and to be able to get on with the project.

“That was our biggest challenge, and now that’s solved,” Smith said.

John Drew, PARTA’s general manager, said the facility, which is set to encase a lower-level shopping strip, an upper-level parking garage and a backside transit center for PARTA, still needs architectural details worked. They also still need to complete the administrative end of the process — getting additional paper work filled out to receive the money.

“We are at about 40 percent of where we need to be,” Drew said.

Kent city manager Dave Ruller said land acquisition is also in the works.

“That will continue over the course of this year,” Ruller said, “and I think you’ll see activity in 2011 as the site begins to be prepped for development, and construction can begin sometime shortly there after.”

Even though plans aren’t complete, officials with Kent city, Kent State and PARTA are sure of the benefits the multi-modal facility will bring.

President Lester Lefton said the better location of PARTA’s transit center would be beneficial for students and the rest of the city and county.

“Because the public transportation facility will be so much more efficient than it currently is,” Lefton said, “it’s going to allow for increased access to more individuals, better usage and really bringing people to downtown, and that is going to be huge economic stimulus for the city and the county, which is really going to allow other things to happen.”

Dan Smith, economic development director, said the economic stimulation would begin with an estimated 265 people employed during the building process as well as another 700 people post-construction.

Smith said that efficiency is of huge importance and even though $1 million needs to be cut from the initial budget, the facility won’t compromise its ability to be “a poster child of something that is energy efficient.”

“One problem transit has is in operating costs,” he said, “The solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling is definitely something that will go in to offset (those) costs.”

With the buzz in city hall surrounding the multi-modal center, Dan Smith said the focus is still on the big picture of the Downtown Revitalization Project.

“It’s not just a transit center we’re building, “ he said. “This is the first domino of this project. There are about 10 to 15 more dominos right behind it, so part of this project is a hotel/conference center.

“We’ve also got some corporate offices that we’d like to locate into our historic downtown Kent, as well as a lifestyle center, which is going to be new retail — new restaurants.”

He said the multi-modal facility is the second benchmark after the $6 million Phoenix Project that produced Acorn Alley.

“We’re very excited, not only about this 20 million, but about the 80 to 100 million total investment that this will leverage,” Dan Smith said.

Ruller said the next 18 months are important, and there is a lot to do.

“Our grand plan is to have all of the things Dan just mentioned to have ribbon cutting ready by the fall of 2012,” Ruller said.

Contact public affairs reporter Anthony Holloway at [email protected]