A wet spring and summer slowed work on Acorn Alley II enough that developer Ron Burbick is expecting construction to end on the project in November.
Burbick said they just broke ground this week on a fourth building as part of the project to extend the original Acorn Alley retail development all the way from Main Street to Erie Street downtown.
And even as construction started on the fourth building, businesses are getting ready to open along Erie Street, including Wild Earth Outfitters, where workers were unpacking inventory this week.
Burbick said originally they wanted to finish construction on Acorn Alley II in August.
"But this other building wasn’t included in that at the time. We’re not too far off schedule," he said. "It’s been more weather related than anything else. Every day we planned to be working outside it was raining."
The fourth building, or "Building D," will stand behind the Erie Street buildings and line the alley between Acorn Alley I and Acorn Alley II. It will include first-floor space for the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and a shop for a photography studio. The actual photo studio will be in the second floor with another small office.
"It’s only about 1,000 square feet per floor, but it will actually form one side of the Acorn Plaza back there," Burbick said.
And instead of a big ribbon-cutting like was held for the first project each business' opening will be celebrated, and they may hold a big grand opening once all of Acorn Alley II's businesses are open.
"We’re gonna have probably a different shop or facility opening about every 10 days," Burbick said. "So we just decided to do them as they open, and then probably in the spring we’ll have a big grand opening once all the stores are open."
One of the biggest changes in the project will be the lack of residential space on the upper floors.
Burbick said they are no longer planning to build residential condominiums on the entire third floor of Acorn Alley II as first discussed. That changed because a big software company wanted to occupy the entire third floor, but that deal eventually fell through.
"In the meantime, we’ve leased half of the third floor to a couple other businesses," he said. "I think we’re going to go mostly with offices up there now.
"The reality is, even if we had condos down there now it’s going to be a real problem with parking, so we felt it was better to hold off on that for a while," Burbick said. "Because somebody living down there, they don’t want to have to park and walk a few blocks carrying their groceries."
With completion on the horizon, Kent's most successful redeveloper in the past few decades is a little relieved to see the end of a project that started with site demolition in December 2010. The end of construction on Acorn Alley II will give Burbick a chance to do the work he originally set out to do with his foundation, the Burbick Foundation, and as a founding partner in Main Street Kent — providing grants and guidance to businesses updating their storefront image.
"I want to get back to what we started to do," he said. "There are still a number of buildings downtown that could use some real façade improvements. It’s nice to build all this new stuff, but I’d like to see some of the older stuff renovated and moved up to date."