PARTA Asks for Continuance in Eminent Domain Case
Car Parts Warehouse property essential for new transit center planned in downtown Kent
The civil case set to determine the value of a downtown Kent property crucial for construction of a new, $26 million transit center has been continued until Feb.16.
Jury selection was set to start at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning in the case to determine a sale price for the Car Parts Warehouse building at 115 S. DePeyster St., but Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow dismissed potential jurors shortly after 9 a.m.
The case was rescheduled to February at the request of the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority.
PARTA filed an eminent domain action to seize the parts store in order to construct the transit center. The property owners had rejected PARTA's initial good faith offer of $423,000.
Bryan Smith, planning director for PARTA, said the two month delay in reaching an agreeable purchase price should not slow construction of the transit center, which is scheduled to open in late 2012.
The property owners, Tony and Carolina Difiore of TD & CD Kent LLC, purchased the half-acre lot in 2006 and made mutliple improvements to the building for the car parts operation. They manage several stores in the region.
Richard Drucker, attorney for the Difiores, said PARTA asked for the delay to examine new information he provided the transit authority about recent land sales in the downtown area.
Drucker said the Kent store has proven very successful for the parts company, and the Difiores have had a difficult time finding a new location. He said they don't dispute PARTA's ability to buy the land.
"They bought the building with the idea they would stay there for many, many years," Drucker said. "They recognize, however, there is a significant public purpose in constructing this new transit center. The dispute is about value only."
The transit center is funded largely in part by a $20 million federal grant awarded earlier this year. The facility will include five stories with close to 400 public parking spaces, 10 bus transfer bays and thousands of square feet of retail space on the first floor.
Several downtown redevelopment projects in the works will rely on the public parking provided by the transit center. The planned Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center, which will be located across from the transit center, will not open until after the parking is available.
Developer Ron Burbick's Acorn Alley II development also will rely on the parking. Burbick is expected to delay construction of the final two buildings in the new project until after the transit center opens.