The ceremonial groundbreaking on downtown Kent's newest, and last, building to rise as part of the more than $100 million redevelopment boon marked one milestone while hinting at another.
Earth is moving for the foundation of Cleveland developer Fairmount Properties' five-story apartment building that will stand at the corner of South DePeyster and Erie Streets, and the developer joined city officials, state and local government representatives, administrators from Kent State University and PARTA to break ground on the site Friday.
The groundbreaking marks the start of construction for the last new building to rise as part of the massive redevelopment that's been under way for several years downtown since the start of Ron Burbcik's Acorn Alley projects.
Fairmount's $6.5 million, 42,000 square feet "Building C" will be home to 32 upscale apartments on the upper four floors with the 7,000-square-foot Bricco restaurant on the first floor.
It will be surrounded by the other redevelopment projects well under way, including the mixed-use AMETEK and Davey Tree buildings, Acorn Alley, the Kent State Hotel and PARTA's Kent Central Gateway transit center.
While, for now, it marks the last of the big redevelopment projects, it also further solidifies Kent's transformation as a destination college town home to Ohio's second largest public university.
Dr. Char Reed, senior assistant to Kent State President Lester Lefton, said Friday that Kent's massive transformation is having a positive effect on student interest in attending the university.
Reed said the university is on track to receive 23,000 applications for the approximately 4,000 incoming freshman slots available in the fall of 2013. And the university has 300 more contracts for student housing for the coming year than it did at the same time last year.
"We think prospective students and families are seeing what's going on here in Kent, and there's a lot of excitement about it," she said. "Let's just keep it going."
Randy Ruttenberg, principle partner in Fairmount Properties, said the new apartment building itself already has several units spoken for.
"This project we think will be the most upscale residential in this area," Ruttenberg said. "Walk-in closets, granite countertops, in-suite washers and dryers, sliding French doors with balconies. We've got reservations for almost one-third of the 32 units. We're excited to bring some housing for young professionals."
Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said Building C is merely rounding the block in the district owned by the city and developed by Fairmount.
"Yes this is destination Kent, college town USA," Fiala said.