If you’ve been in downtown Kent in the last 12 months you have seen plenty of evidence of steady private investment. Main Street Kent is living proof that small investments can add up into something significant with a tally over $750,000 for 2007 and more underway in 2008. The City’s challenge is to keep that figure climbing while we also work to bring some new retail, restaurant and office space with our Downtown Redevelopment Project. I thought it was worth repeating that the success of the new redevelopment project will be measured by how well it fits with and complements the many smaller investments that are already earning returns.
To ensure that happens the City is working on pulling the many little pieces together with those projects that are already in the pipeline and other emerging business opportunities to form the basis of redevelopment strategy for downtown Kent — or as I prefer to call it a blueprint for public and private reinvestment. That’s planning with a purpose.
On April 2nd the Redevelopment RFQ Review Team will present their recommendation to Council for the selection of the most qualified development partner. We interviewed three exceptional teams, each of whom bring great resources to the table, and based on those interviews and independent research on each firm’s qualifications, the Review Team has prepared a ranking of the firms for Council’s consideration.
The good news is that we have three firms that have the vision, the expertise and the resources to deliver a first-rate project in downtown Kent. The great news is that we have one that we believe brings the best combination of experience and capabilities, and that’s who we’ll recommend Council authorize us to begin negotiations with. Negotiations will occur in parallel with project design and that project design will be done in concert with the larger downtown reinvestment strategy.
Our goal is to make sure that as we work with the preferred developer we’re in a position as a community to translate the “bigger” picture to the developer that began with the Bicentennial Plan. To me, the Bicentennial Plan provides a great summary of the community’s hopes and aspirations for how the central business distict, neighborhoods and Kent State University can come together to create the kind of synergy that consistently puts university cities at the top of the list of best places to live, work and play.
The time is now for Kent to have it’s share of that synergy — all we lack is a blueprint for how we specifically want to do it. The Bicentennial Plan is bigger than just downtown but with all the private investment interest in downtown right now we need to take advantage of that momentum and use it to push us through another round of planning that will produce specific action plans at its completion. We did the planning for planning sake 5 years ago, today is about planning for the purpose of acting and guiding public and private investment to its maximum effect.
We’ll be meeting with City Council over the next couple of weeks to lay out a path to do just that.
In the meantime, as one Blog reader pointed out to me last week, we have to keep a sense of urgency about this task not only because windows of opportunity only stay open so long but also because our peer cities are getting aggressive themselves. I don’t know if you saw the article about Twinsburg’s new $100 million retail center that they announced last week, so I copied it below. Interestingly they talk about trying to build a new downtown style shopping experience because that’s what’s hot in today’s marketplace. We don’t have to build a new downtown because we’ve already got one, we’ve just got to get smart about how to combine the best of the old and the new to highlight our terrific downtown in a uniquely Kent way.
New retail complex proposed for Twinsburg
Plans unveiled for shopping complex in Twinsburg that could mean about 1,200 jobs
By Connie Bloom
and Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal staff writers
Published on Wednesday, Mar 19, 2008
A proposed retail shopping complex will be the first of its kind in the country, a development group said Tuesday evening, when it unveiled plans for the $100 million Twinsburg Fashion Place to a roomful of public officials at Twinsburg Township Hall.
Summit County Council members and Twinsburg trustees seemed enthusiastic about the prospects of the proposal that could mean up to 1,200 jobs.
The development would straddle land in Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township and could open as early as 2010.
The 95-acre complex would feature a pedestrian-friendly, ”open-air lifestyle”
with pricey architectural accents, public gathering spaces.
Developers say potential tenants would be unique to the area.
There would be outdoor seating, fountains and compartmentalized parking with its own landscaping, said James B. Heller, president of ka architecture of Cleveland.
In good weather, the outdoors will come in and indoors will go out, he said. Walls will slide open in some of the development’s stores.
The project could bring more than 1,200 jobs to the area, with significant economic return to the community, drawing in $2.25 million annually in real-estate taxes alone, Heller said.
Studies have been completed that show the project to be highly desirable for the area.
The development is projected to draw shoppers to the complex just southwest of Interstate 480 and west of state Route 91.
The project is a joint venture between BG & Sons and the Glimcher Company, the developer that redeveloped the Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, according to Sheldon Berns, attorney for BG & Sons.
Dr. Bahman Guyuron, a Lyndhurst-based plastic surgeon with University Hospitals, purchased most of the land and envisioned the project nearly four years ago.
Guyuron said he’s been working on it ever since.
”A project 31/2 (years) in the making has finally come to fruition,” he said.
He was originally planning a medical office inside, but dropped the idea due to the wealth of medical facilities in the area.
Summit County Council President Nick Kostandaras likened the project to Legacy Village in suburban Cleveland and the Polaris shopping center in Columbus.
”I think this development could bring 1,000 to 1,500 jobs, which is a sizable work force,” Kostandaras said. ”I’m glad to see that happening in Summit County.”
The mixed-use, two-story retail center will have a Main Street theme and be anchored by two department stores, Berns said.
He estimated the project would employ the equivalent of 1,200 full-time employees.
Portions of the site in the city of Twinsburg are already zoned appropriately, but Twinsburg Township officials would need to make some revisions to township zoning for the project to move forward.