City council to discuss signing agreement with KSU, investors for downtown redevelopment

Regina Garcia Cano

Kent city officials expect to pass the first hurdle tonight for an agreement between the city and the university on the downtown redevelopment project and Esplanade extension.

“This is the biggest step on the project,” Ward 3 Councilman Wayne Wilson said. “It spells out what each party will do.”

At the City Council meeting, council members will discuss whether to authorize city staff to negotiate and sign a Declaration of Collective Intent regarding the redevelopment. The parties expected to sign are Kent State, PARTA, Kent City School District, Fairmont Properties and Pizzuti Development, LLC.

The proposed downtown Kent redevelopment will include a hotel and conference center, retail/office/residential complex, and a multi-modal facility.

The declaration will not be a legally binding agreement to any of the groups involved, but it represents “a written understanding for all parties to do their portions,” said Dan Smith, the city economic development director.

Smith estimates the city will provide $12.5 million to the project from taxes among other sources. The city will also improve infrastructure, such as sidewalks and lighting and cede property to the project to help cover its portion of the cost.

President Lester Lefton said the university’s board “is willing to consider being an investor” on the redevelopment project. However, the administration has not made a final decision.

“We are prepared to do it if it will make the deal work. And we will make money off of it, too,” Lefton added.

Council members will also discuss the possibility of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Kent State to agree to extend the university Esplanade along Erie Street. With this compromise, both parties would work together to seek outside funding sources to complete the connection between the city and Kent State.

The next step after tonight’s discussions will be the actual signing of the declaration and the memorandum, provided all parties agree no changes need to be made to them. Smith said he hopes the documents will be signed in the next two months.

“We would finally move the project along,” said Wilson, who is serving his 19th year as councilman. “We’ve been talking about it since I first got to City Council.”

Contact public affairs reporter Regina Garcia Cano

at [email protected].