Negotiations still underway for downtown development

Andrew Hampp

At this time next year, the buildings on Water and Depeyster Streets currently owned by businesses such as Kent Hardware and Screwy Louie’s could be occupied by all new businesses, condominiums and a two-level parking garage.

Wayne Demmer, store manager for Kent Hardware on 225 S. Water St., said he heard these same plans at this time last year, but his store is now on track to tentatively relocate to South Depeyster Street in October.

Charley Bowman, Kent city community development director, said the new development, to be called Kent Village, will be ready to open in 12 to 18 months.

Mike Weddle, Kent city economic development coordinator, insisted Kent Village’s delay is nothing out of the ordinary.

“I’ve been in the economic development business for 22 years, and projects always, invariably take longer than envisioned to complete,” he said. “We’re still moving in the right direction. You can’t say we’re not on schedule.”

Andrew Lombardo, president of the California-based development firm Right Dimensions, has been trying to acquire several of the businesses neighboring Kent Hardware and Screwy Louie’s for the last year, Weddle said. Since negotiations are still underway, Weddle said he has not yet received a copy of Right Dimensions’ plans for Kent Village.

Developer Jon Bauman of the Contrende Company in Chicago has also recently become involved with the downtown project. Neither he or Lombardo could be reached for comment.

Kent Hardware has been committed to the project for a year now, Demmer said, and will move to its new location as soon as the building, the site of the old Commercial Press building, has been cleared.

“It’s a little smaller, but it’s a real nice layout,” Demmer said of the new site. “We’ll still be offering the same products. There won’t be anything that disappears.”

Demmer said he hasn’t had too many conversations with his neighboring businesses about their respective plans for relocating or their communication with the developers. However, he remains optimistic about Kent Village’s potential effects on the community.

“If it’s good for the community, it’s good for us,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Andrew Hampp at [email protected].