UPDATE: Apartments Pending at DuBois Site near Kent State Campus
Book store property vacant since June 2011; Patch's "Visions for Vacancies" asks for reader input on empty commercial spaces
Editor's note: this story was updated May 8, 2012.
The owner of the now-vacant DuBois Book Store property on South Lincoln Street is planning to sell the property to a developer looking to build apartments on the site.
Howard DuBois, who still runs two of the DuBois family book stores in Oxford and Cincinnati, OH, said Friday that the sale of the 18 or so parcels that surround the empty Kent building is pending to a developer who "wants to put in a significant number of apartments and perhaps something commercial down below."
DuBois did not name the developer.
"I don't want to jinx it," he said. "It’s still going to be at least a couple of months before we have a final agreement."
DuBois did say that the developer is not Cleveland-based Fairmount Properties, which is partnering with the city of Kent to redevelop a portion of downtown and showed interested in the book store property last fall. He said this developer is not as big as Fairmount but has "a proven track record" and has done similar work in Cleveland near Cleveland State University.
"I am encouraged that we’ve got the right people this time," DuBois said.
No lack of suggestions
The book store closed in June 2011 after 75 years in business.
In a recent story, Kent Patch readers suggested a variety of potential businesses and uses that might succeed at the large piece of property at the corner of South Lincoln and Summit streets directly across from the Kent State University campus.
The suggestions ranged from a parking deck to a craft brewery, experimental teacher training school and upscale apartments. The parking deck garnered 25 percent of the votes cast — the majority — while an apartment complex earned 12 percent of the votes.
A few readers also suggested the location as a year-round home for the Haymaker Farmers Market.
"A year round produce, farmer's market-type, store with an aqauponics mini-farm on one entire floor," Kent Patch reader Paul Myers said. "This would also be a training farm tied into the university and the local schools. A self sustaining, hands-on lab for the science and business disciplines as well as a point of contact for local real food."
But it looks like apartments are going to ultimately win.
Residential long considered
The former book store property was talked about as an ideal spot for an apartment complex long before the shelves were emptied and doors closed one year ago.
Kent Community Development Department Director Gary Locke said he's heard discussion about building apartments there for almost 25 years.
"The fact the property is adjacent to the university has made it a property of interest with people who do development," Locke said. "We’ve had a litany of discussions over probably the last five years with people who have an interest in doing something with that property. None of them have ever evolved to the point of someone bringing us a plan … and we’re still at that point."
Locke isn't convinced apartments are the best use for the site if only for the fact the Kent area has had an explosion in the past few years of new apartment construction. Under construction right now are two student apartment complexes on the edge of campus: The Province at Kent and University Edge. Prior to those developments, two other large complexes were built in Franklin Township just east of the city.
He's concerned Kent's housing market could be getting over saturated with apartments and compares it to the city's abundance of pizza shops.
"Everybody thinks they make the best pizza," Locke said. "It doesn’t matter that there’s only so many people who can eat pizza. When you get too much supply, then it begins to have an impact on other properties."
Kent City Council Ward 5 Representative Heidi Shaffer, however, disagrees.
Shaffer said it makes sense to keep that area of her ward residential in character.
"Especially high-density residential, which is generally the best use of our land at the city center," she said. "Also, I've been concerned about a loss of housing in this neighborhood so, depending on the nature of the project, I think that is a great use for that site."
Shaffer said she'd like to learn more about the potential project.
"The construction of high density, quality housing near the university, especially housing that is near downtown, is a win for our family-oriented residential neighborhoods and for the revitalization of downtown Kent," she said.