Lifestyle center concept now in progress for Kent

Nedda Pourahmady

After the onset of lifestyle centers in other Northeast Ohio cities, the city of Kent continues to work on a similar concept suitable for downtown.

City Manager Dave Ruller said lifestyle centers differ from malls since they are for more than just shopping.

“Lifestyle centers are about creating a collection of experiences, some of which may be retail, but it’s also about galleries, restaurants and even residential living,” he said.

Gary Locke, community development director, said lifestyle centers can take on many different attributes and are geared toward the community.

“A lifestyle center is likely a trendy term for a mixed-use facility where you have a combination of residential, retail, service and possibly recreational uses in the same development,” he said.

Locke said the city has been looking at a downtown village concept for many years and the facility would fall under the general description of a lifestyle center.

Costs for the new center will be determined by many factors, Ruller said.

“Costs are going to depend upon land costs, utilities and structures,” he said. “As we move forward with redevelopment downtown, we will enter a contract with a developer and one of our first tasks will be to define what we want.”

Ruller said the total cost for the new facility will be in the millions, all depending on the best fit for Kent.

Retailers at the new center will be driven by a combination of two groups of people, Locke said.

“Some will point to the general population base of the community and suggest that the retailers will be driven by those demographics,” he said. “Some will look at the potential support base from the university population.”

Even though Ruller said many residents of Kent want to see a mix of Legacy Village and Hudson’s First and Main for the new center, he also said Kent has always been an original city.

“This community prides itself on being a little different, so whatever we end up doing isn’t going to be a traditional lifestyle center,” he said. “Rather, we’ll take some of the lifestyle concepts and adapt them in a uniquely Kent sort of way.”

Locke said he thinks this project is important for both the city and downtown.

“It becomes an attraction to bring people downtown to live, work and shop,” he said. “It begins to create more of a connection between downtown and campus.”

Aunalee Breckenridge, a retiree living in Kent who worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for Rudolph and Sletten General Contractors for 19 years, said her company was involved in the beginnings of the Santana Row lifestyle center in San Jose in 2002.

“It is a fabulous addition to San Jose,” she said. “What an amazing blend of cultures, high-end, low-end, middle-range shops and restaurants. To imagine that this project started construction five years ago and is so popular in that length of time just blows my mind.”

Breckenridge said she is in favor of a lifestyle center concept in Kent.

“I realize that Hudsonites have more per capita income than Kentites, but my heartfelt belief is that there is a perfect Kent lifestyle center just waiting to spring forth!” she said.

Ruller said the city will continue working on this project as downtown redevelopment progresses.

“Redevelopment hasn’t happened by itself, so the city will likely be looking at making its own investments to serve as a catalyst for it to happen,” he said. “We’re committed to redeveloping downtown and I’d expect to continue to see progress in 2008 with things hitting their stride in 2009.”

Overall, Locke said every project in every community has a cost and benefit element to it.

“As a general rule, investment attracts investment,” he said. “If we can get this project rolling, it opens the door for other projects in the community.”

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reporter Nedda Pourahmady

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