Construction moves forward

Kent businesses react to bridge plans

The Crain/Fairchild Bridge project is moving ahead. The bridge plans call for local property owners to move from their locations. DANIEL OWEN | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

The Fairchild/Crain Bridge project is once again underway, as soon as nine properties are purchased by the city of Kent.

Before the city can negotiate with the property owners, the Ohio Department of Transportation must review an environmental clearance document, said Chris Tolnar, superintendent of engineering for the city.

“It’s more or less an assessment of the project in regards to the environmental or cultural effects or consequences,” Tolnar said.

ODOT will assess the properties to ensure there are no environmental conflicts or historical significance connected to any of the properties.

Tolnar said once ODOT is finished reviewing the document, it will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration for review.

Once it is reviewed by the FHA, Kent can begin right-of-way acquisitions.

“Because this project contains federal funding there is a federal process of acquiring right-of-way acquisition,” Tolnar said.

The federal process prevents owners from being taken advantage of and also prevents the city from being taken advantage by property owners who are unwilling to negotiate, Tolnar said.

The federal funding will not be available until June. Once the funding comes through, the city will start negotiating.

Lloyd Atkinson owns one of the properties, 534 N. Water St.

“Until the negotiations start, I’m not going to make a decision,” Atkinson said.

Tolnar said he has talked to the majority of people whose properties will be taken over.

“Because of the amount of public involvement, I would say pretty much every person (involved) should know about this project,” he said.

Bob Mayfield, co-owner of McKay Bricker Gallery & Framing, said the city has been talking to him and his wife about the project. This is another one of the properties being bought by the city.

“Chris Tolnar has been very helpful about keeping us informed,” Mayfield said. “The city will help us find a suitable location if we need it.”

The store has been at 609 N. Mantua St. for 16 years, and it is also the home of Mayfield and his wife/co-owner Cass Mayfield. They live in an apartment above the store and must find a new place to live.

“They’re gonna tear down our poor apartment, but we won’t chain ourselves to the building,” Mayfield said. “We’re willing to negotiate.”

He said he and his wife would like to relocate into downtown Kent.

Mayfield said there is a huge drawback to relocating though: losing out on free advertising. He said their business gets a lot of drive-by traffic, which allows them to spend less on advertising.

He added losing their parking lot is another major drawback.

Most of the owners didn’t have a lot of problems with the project, but the delays with the project have caused concern during the past six years, Tolnar said.

Salvatore Cali decided to close his restaurant La Cucina Cali, another one of the properties, because of personal reasons. Cali said he has had trouble selling the property because prospective buyers knew about plans for the bridge.

“That’s probably a reason why it’s been empty,” Cali said.

Cali and his wife retired after closing the restaurant and had no solid plans for the building. He said they have accepted the fact the building will be purchased by the city.

“It’s OK, it has to be OK,” Cali sad. “We don’t have any say so on it.”

The Mayfields are optimistic about relocating their business.

“We don’t mind change, even forced change. We’re using this as an opportunity to improve business,” Cass Mayfield said. “We think downtown Kent is on the verge of a Renaissance, and we want to be a part of it.”

Contact public affairs reporters Kurt Jakub at [email protected] and Tiffany Ciesicki at [email protected].