Tallmadge, Streetsboro, Cuyahoga Falls, and Akron all have Save A Lot Grocery stores, and now it’s time to add Kent to the list. Wednesday, the City received the news from the owner of the University Plaza that a lease had been signed by Save A Lot to open a new store in the old Giant Eagle site. This is really great news. The Save A Lot web site says they have 1,150 stores nationwide — so now we can make it 1,151.
Here’s a note I sent members of City Council yesterday that I thought was worth sharing:
I’m very happy to report that after 4 months of negotiations, the owners of University Plaza sent us a letter this morning confirming that they have a signed lease for a new grocery tenant — Save A Lot. The plaza owners told us that they will continue to get the space ready for Save A Lot, with an expectation to open in late October or early November of this year.
We’re working with the PR people at Save A Lot to make an official press announcement which I would expect to be ready sometime this week, but now that the deal is done I wanted to be sure you were made aware of it. We’d like to do a photo opportunity at the store location for press coverage but we’re waiting to hear back from Save A Lot on their availability for photos (the corporate office is in St. Louis).
I know the loss of Giant Eagle has been stressful for the community, Council and staff, so we’re delighted to be able to welcome Save A Lot into Kent. As I’ve mentionned previously, trying to entice a new grocer to the Kent market has been very challenging and I give Gary Locke and Mike Weddle a lot of credit for chasing after dozens of leads often without much satisfaction but their persistence paid off and I am really grateful for their hard work.
As we get more detailed information I’ll be sure to share it with you.
Summer is always hectic because of vacation schedules so I thought it might be a good time to catch up on a few items that we’ve been working on.
1. Cuyahoga River Recreational Opportunities Evaluation — After seeing what other cities have been able to do to give their local economy a boost through river recreation, e.g., walking trails, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, etc., the staff and I have been looking at how our river resource could be expanded for economic gain as well. We’ve been researching the issue for a number of months and thanks to the assistance of a new Main Street “River” committee, we’ve enlisted a number of local experts who share a passion for river recreation.
Main Street paid for one of their committee members to attend a conference in Maryland that brought together experts from all over the country to discuss creating whitewater parks in existing rivers. The local kayakers already consider the Kent segment of the Cuyahoga to be one of the best sections of the river to ride but they went to the conference to learn how we could do even more to highlight Kent’s portion of the river for eco/sports tourism. At the conference, the Main Street volunteer talked to one of the leading river recreation engineering firms in the country from Boulder Colorado and it turns out that the firm has been hired by the City of Dayton OH to evaluate the river recreational opportunties in Dayton. The firm offered to visit Kent as part of the Dayton trip and provide a similar evaluation for us (at much less cost since the travel costs from Colorado are already being paid by Dayton).
Main Street, City Parks and Rec and the Downtown Redevelopment budget will share the $2,300 cost for the river assessment which is expected to be performed later this month, with findings available by the end of August. I have attached a copy of the River Assessment (Download this file) for your information.
Coincidently, we were contacted by a new business prospect last month that is very interested in establishing a Kent based river recreation business, with canoe/kayak/raft rentals and livery service available. He has hopes to start with the rental elements and grow it to include guided hiking, biking, fishing and river tours that would be based out of Kent. We had a hard time finding vacant space for him downtown that met his needs but we’re working on coming up with some creative solutions. He’d really like to move the old train baggage building that is south of Stow Street, but we weren’t sure how to make that happen. We get prospects like this all the time that don’t pan out, but I wanted to at least let you know that there has been some genuine business interest in Kent related to river recreation.
2. Sports and Event Tourism Council — Last summer I mentionned to you that I had started talking with Kent City schools, Kent Parks and Recreation and Kent State University to explore the possibility of marketing our sports facilties together to try to better capture more of the tournament and competitive sports events that have proven to be a great way to bring dollars from outside Kent into Kent. The sports tourism model works and I was anxious to organize ourselves better in order to put us in a position to attract more events to Kent. The good news was all of the relevant parties agreed it was a great idea and we could all benefit from it; the challenge was finding staff time to dedicate to help make it happen.
After a slight hiatus last fall, the group has been reconvening and I think we’re in a position to actually make it happen. We’ve been fortunate to have the benefit of a couple of classes from Kent State in the Sports Management Program working on completing an inventory of all of the Kent sports facilities, e.g., number of swimming pools, basketball courts, baseball fields, etc., with dimensions, seating capacity, etc. Creating this database is a critical first step since that is what we market to potential tournament people.
The next step is to form an executive board with community, city, university representatives, etc., establish a web presence, create a marketing strategy, identify events to go after, pitch Kent to the tournament organizers, etc. We all agreed that in order to make that happen we need a staff person to work on these issues nearly full time. As you might imagine, none of us have “extra” staffing to commit but the university suggested creating a graduate assistantship that would be a two year commitment of a graduate student working between 30-40 hours a week on the start up effort. It is believed that the position could be self supporting by the end of 2 years (through tournament fee revenues) and I agreed to contribute $6,000 of our economic development funds to share the cost of the graduate assistant (total cost is $18,000) in the first two years. The graduate assistant would actually work out of my office and John Idone’s office.
We have not finalized these terms but we’re have made good progress so I thought it was a good time to update you. I would note that we have already had conversations with a large Ohio tournament official to bring a major high school tournament to Kent next year. The best part is, this tournament plans to do the tournament every year, and they don’t want to jump from city to city, so if we do it right we could expect them back year afer year. We think our prospects look good, but we really have to get this group organized to pull this off.
That’s it for now, thanks.