Retail development to bring in $1.3 million in 10 years

Matt Fredmonsky

Last night Kent City Council took the first steps in moving forward with a proposed retail development project in the area between Erie, College and Depeyster streets.

Right Dimensions, a consulting firm based in California, presented a plan to council for building a $13 million complex between 60,000 and 100,000 square feet.

The project is a part of Kent’s Bicentennial Plan, which involves various re-development goals throughout the city.

Charley Bowman, director of community development, said that this project would generate an estimated $1.3 million in tax revenue during a 10 year period.

Right Dimensions President Andrew Lombardo said that he will work with local and national retailers to help determine the overall structure of the site.

“We want to attract all kinds of retailers to this project, with a goal of making this a family-oriented place,” Lombardo said. “As we acquire properties, we will have something to work with to show retailers, and then we can get an idea of what they will need in terms of space.”

Lombardo said he has handshake agreements with many local retailers to become a part of the project. Among them is Kent Hardware on South Water Street.

“If all goes as planned, they will be the center of the project,” Lombardo said.

The site could be a two- or three-story structure, with retail space on the first floor, office and retail on the second floor, and residential space on the third.

Steve Hodge, vice president of Right Dimensions, said that construction could begin this summer.

“Once we’ve acquired all the properties and the lease agreements are done, we could begin clearing the land in April and May and start building in late June,” he said.

The city possesses a large portion of the land on the proposed site. Kent State and private citizens own the rest of the property.

Bowman said Right Dimensions has letters of intent to either sell or negotiate the sale of the land involved with those residents.

Councilman Ed Bargerstock raised a concern with acquiring all of the property needed for the project, fearing that some residents would not sell.

“The extreme position we would take in that situation is asking the city to enforce eminent domain to acquire the properties, and Right Dimensions would be responsible for re-imbursing the city for any costs involved,” Bowman said.

Eminent domain is a process where municipalities across the country can seize private property for public use, as long as the city can prove it is being done to serve the public good.

Lombardo told council that his agreements to obtain the property will stand.

“Right Dimensions and the university will offer options to the property owners,” Bowman said. “Eminent domain would only be an extreme measure.”

Lombardo said that the goal of the project is to create a central business district downtown, providing 150 new jobs.

The plan includes improvements in landscaping, storm water run-off and includes a central courtyard for community events.

Contact public affairs reporter Matt Fredmonsky at [email protected]