One thing is certain, the city of Kent will redevelop the former manufacturing complex that was home to AMETEK on Lake Street before the firm moved downtown this year.
What's unclear is who the tenant or tenants in the 288,000-square-foot, 15-acre former manufacturing complex will be and how they might use the old factory.
Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith said about half a dozen entities have approached the city with proposals for putting manufacturing operations into the space, which Kent City Council members voted to buy in April 2011 for $106,000 as part of a deal that moved AMETEK into the downtown redevelopment project.
"Ultimately our goal is to get it into the hands of a private owner," Smith said of the property.
He said it's too early in talks to identify the firms that have shown an interest in the property.
One firm identified early as showing an interest in using the site was the Ohio Lighthouse for the Blind and Vision Impaired, which proposed potential lock and mattress assembly there.
But Smith said the group is unlikely to take part in the site's redevelopment because the site remediation is not moving fast enough, and the financing for their involvement — including fixed operating costs associated with the complex — have become potential roadblocks for the non-profit group.
"They continue to look for capital partners," Smith said. "They have to make sure that they have critical mass and enough partners to go into that facility to make sure they can run the building."
But city leaders anticipate there won't be just one tenant or use in the building when it is redeveloped.
"Several of the people we’re talking to are talking about a jointly occupied facility," Smith said. "It could be mixed use, or predominantly manufacturing. But because there is so much office space available, it may not be out of the question that portions of the building are used for office uses."
The property is in the midst of remediation to remove contaminated soils and any on-site asbestos. The property has already been through both phase one and phase two environmental studies under the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Volunteer Action Program.
The Clean Ohio Council approved a grant award of $1,084,403 from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund to the city in order to finish environmental remediation work at the industrial complex.
The city has a 25 percent match requirement and will have to contribute about $270,000, but that's less than the $500,000 city officials had previously earmarked for the project.
This, city officials expect to issue a request for proposals to hire a certified professional to oversee the remediation.
Smith said he expects the remediation could take at least a year or more before the property is ready for new tenants.
"There are portions of the facility that could be occupied in a quick time frame," he said.
The next four to five months is an anticipated period of heavy negotiations between city officials and the firms interested in using the property. The city may have to manage leases, with the expectation of a payback for the city's investment through income taxes, if it can't be sold outright to a private owner.
Smith said the city's main goal is to recoup the close to $500,000 investment in both buying the site and cleaning it of contaminants.
"Ultimately we’d like to get it into the hands of a private owner," he said. "We could either sell it to recoup the half million or, depending on the types of projects we put in there, show a rate of return on income taxes if we’re able to put together a constructive deal."
He added that the city did not buy the building on a whim and that it was part of the deal to keep AMETEK from moving out of Kent.
And this month city council approved leasing 10,000 square feet of the building back to AMETEK for part of the firm's operations that could not be moved into the new downtown offices.
"It was one of the deals we had to commit to to keep them in town," Smith said of the land buy.