Saturday, April 23, 2011

Downtown Kent updates

I actually started writing this yesterday talking about how I hadn't been able to get new pictures of the progress in downtown Kent since this past fall when I took pictures just as demolition work was starting.  Well, today ended up being a beautiful day perfect for going downtown (I walked there from home) and getting pictures.  The Earth Day festival known as "Who's Your Mama" was going on along East Main Street, so there were quite a few people downtown for that.  The weather was partly cloudy and windy, but around 72 degrees.  I had a wonderful time just getting out and walking!

The demolition ended up being in phases. The block bordered by South Water, East Erie, South DePeyster, and Haymaker was cleared first. A few weeks later, the old Record-Courier office was torn down. That was done before the winter really set in, so for the last several months we've had this big open area downtown (except for the little green shelter for the gas line) kinda waiting for something to happen. Meanwhile, PARTA had to go through some legal wrangling to get the last property for their facility, which they got in the last few weeks.  The last building they need to tear down is a former auto parts warehouse.  Before construction can begin on the new hotel, a 3-story brick house on East Erie Street behind where the Record-Courier office will also need to be torn down.

Above is a picture from September just as demolition had started.  The picture below is today from roughly the same angle.  A point of reference is the two trees with the lamp post in between them on the left of both pictures.  The construction in the background is Acorn Alley II.
This is the corner of East Erie and South Water Streets.  Previously a small diner was here and a hardware store.   Below is what the view will look like when construction is finished. (edit: I had the blocks mixed up when I first wrote this in 2011.  The Davey Tree building seen below was planned for and built on the opposite corner--corner of S. Water and Haymaker Parkway--from the block pictured above.  The building built on this site--the corner of S. Water and E. Erie--was mainly for Ametek and looks similar). It should start in the next few weeks.
Even with all the demolition of the first block, what's been interesting is the next expansion of the highly successful Acorn Alley has gotten off to a much quicker pace. Demolition of the buildings on that site was in late December and construction started soon after. Despite some delays because of our long and cold winter, the steel superstructure is already up and the retaining walls have been up probably for a month or so already. It is scheduled to be done by this Summer. PARTA's new facility, the Kent Central Gateway, is supposed to be done late next year. Because South DePeyster Street is partially closed, I really don't drive by the site much, so I'm not sure how much actual construction work has started. It doesn't seem like much from a distance. The block that had demolition first will be one of the last to finally have construction commence. The final pieces to the funding puzzle were put together last week when Davey Tree and Ametek signed formal leases to move office personnel to the development that will be bound by South Water, East Erie, South DePeyster, and Haymaker. With the announcement of Davey and Ametek, 8 restaurant tennants were announced. They're all local franchises, so for some people they will be familiar, while for others not from the Akron or Cleveland areas they will be new. For me, most are ones I've heard of or been to once or twice, but not very often because they're not close by. Acorn Alley will be bringing 4 restaurants of its own. Suddenly downtown Kent is becoming less of a bars-only area, not that our bars are that bad (especially Rays Place!!).

Current view from the corner of East Erie and South DePeyster Streets.  That old hotel in the background is looking worse every time I see it!
The same view when it's all done!
The center is where the pedestrian alley will come out to the street.  The stairs have not been poured yet nor has the steel skeleton been built for the other building on the left!  The highly-successful Acorn Alley I can be seen in the background.
Looking east at the new site from the parking lot of the warehouse that still needs to be torn down.

The last remaining house on East Erie right next to the dead end at Haymaker Parkway.  I have no idea when it will be demolished.  I took some pictures of it so there was some kind of record of its existence!
I'm hoping construction doesn't remove this fire hydrant so I have somewhat of a frame of reference when it's all done.  Everything else will change, including the part where I stood to take the picture.  The warehouse can be seen in the center (it extends much further back).  The hillside will be cleared and largely excavated.  I took several pictures of it.  Acorn Alley II construction can be seen on the left.
Corner of East Erie and South DePeyster opposite the Acorn Alley construction.  Below is the approximate view of the new hotel from the same angle.

Corner of South DePeyster and Haymaker Parkway.  Below is the approximate view of the new hotel and conference center from the same angle.  The warehouse I mentioned previously can be seen in the background along with the last remaining house and the hill where the PARTA facility will be built.
This is a site plan for everything except Acorn Alley.  The large gray building on the top right is the PARTA Kent Central Gateway, immediately south of it is the hotel and conference center, with the Davey/Ametek development immediately west of the hotel.  The view posted above of the Davey building is the top left corner (northwest corner) of that block.  
While I was downtown today, I also got a picture of some facade improvements at Dominicks bar, which is right next to Ray's Place and across the street from the historic train depot (which we know better today as the Pufferbelly restaurant).  A year ago they announced they would be updating their facade to help it fit in better with the other buildings around it.  From the looks so far, I really like it.  It's certainly an improvement from where it had been.  My goodness!
Looking south down Franklin Avenue today.  The white areas are the second floor of Dominick's.  Below is the picture from the Record-Courier article showing what it used to look like.  See what I mean?!?

All the architectural drawings and renderings come from the Kent Ohio Development Facebook page.  The renderings from Pizzuti (the company developing the hotel & conference center) are marked, but they also came from the same Facebook page.

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