Expect to see more orange barrels downtown soon, this time around the old Franklin hotel.
The hotel, which will be renamed Acorn Corner, was the focus of developer Ron Burbick’s presentation along with Record-Courier editor Roger Di Paolo at Wednesday’s semi-annual Bowman Breakfast presentation, titled “Downtown Kent — Yesterday, Today and the Vision for Tomorrow.”
“I used to sit in my office, and I could count on one hand the number of people on Main Street,” Burbick said. “Now, we’re bringing people downtown, which is what we wanted. A lot of them are students, a lot of them are people from Kent. I met two couples the other day from Cincinnati who had heard about this place and drove up here to see it. Somebody from Toledo the other day stopped by. It’s becoming a destination, and that’s good for the town. Build it, and they will come.”
Renovations to Acorn Corner, aka the old hotel, are expected to start mid-May. The project is scheduled to be completed and at 100 percent occupancy Dec. 31, 2012, Burbick announced to the gasps and applause from the more than 320 attendees at the breakfast.
The five-story building will be occupied by:
- Basement - undisclosed retailers and storage for
- First floor - Buffalo Wild Wings kitchen and bar
- Second floor and mezzanine - Buffalo Wild Wings family dining tables
- Third floor - , and a community conference room
- Fourth floor - , Inc. will administer five transitional apartments about 600 square feet each for veterans
- Fifth floor- two 1,500 square feet or three 1,000 square feet luxury rental apartments.
The plans, which were finalized yesterday, just evolved, Burbick said. They just made sense. Buffalo Wild Wings needed more space. The bar and restaurant will triple its size and more than double its employment base. It will contribute at least $1 million to the project. Another example included Mark Frisone, executive director of Family & Community Services, who asked for space in Acorn Corner. Burbick, who served seven years in the Navy, knows .
Renovation costs were estimated at $3.6 million in December but have risen to $5.1 million. Total dollars raised to date are $4.6 million with the Burbick Companies contributing in excess of $1 million, some of the tenants contributing up to $1.5 million, state tax credits (still subject to approval) of $1 million, federal tax credits of $800,000 and local contributions of about $300,000. As for the $500,000 shortfall, Burbick joked there were pledge funds on the breakfast tables.
In addition, state funds aren’t awarded until the project is complete. Burbick Companies are advancing credit and a couple local banks have stepped up to help the project move forward. has refinanced the Acorn Alley II loan to give Burbick some short-term cash flow and has extended a $2-plus million line of credit.
“Even though we’re short on actual cash, we have commitments to 100 percent of the funding to make this thing happen,” he said. “We will not have any problem completing this project on schedule.”
Kent City Council last November for $735,000 from former owner Gregg Vilk. Five days later, council members unanimously agreed to to Burbick for $400,000.
Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said he was pleased to see the progress Burbick has made in five months.
“It was great to see confirmation that the aspirations for why the city was willing to take somewhat of a loss in getting the property to him,” Ruller said. “We did that with the recognition that he’s the guy that could make this thing happen, and we’re willing to make that investment in him. As you saw, it’s paying off.
“Ron’s proven one thing: Never underestimate his desire to make things happen quickly,” Ruller said. “That’s one of the reasons that council was willing to make the investment we did in Ron was his track record of quality product delivered quickly. He’s an ambitious guy when it comes to putting this community back on track and taking care of some of these long-standing issues.”
The hotel has already received from the city. Applications are pending with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office and National Register of Historic Places.
Changes to the exterior will be less noticeable per the historical building restoration requirements. But as co-speaker Di Paolo noted, it will have windows. All the brick and stone will be cleaned, regrouted and replaced as necessary. Per the American Disabilities Act, a rampway will be added to one Main Street entrance, rendering the other historically required door essentially useless — “a door to nowhere,” Burbick said. On the DePeyster Street side, the electrical and utility boxes will need to be reconfigured. There will be a light beige, new elevator tower and the back of the hotel must also be a different color to distinguish the addition from the original structure.
The hotel, built in 1919, has seen its share of ups and downs. The building was known as the Franklin Hotel and Ellis Hotel during its lifetime, and past owners struggled to make it profitable. The upper floors eventually morphed into student housing before they were vacated and condemned in the 1970s.
Burbick also owns all the property along South DePeyster Street from behind the old hotel to Erie Street. His first Acorn Alley project wraps around the building to the west, and Acorn Alley II abuts the hotel property to the south.
“I’ve always been a believer in a downtown community,” he said. “I had been on panels for 40 years that talked about everything and no one ever did anything, for politics for money for whatever reason. When I sold my interest in the company five years ago, I had some capital. I decided I was going to just do a little small project to show it could be done, and I just got carried away.”
Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said the rebuilding hasn’t been confined to just downtown — manufacturing plants have opened or expanded and housing has sprung up.
“It’s just so gratifying to see the momentum is continuing at the pace it is, and I can’t wait to see what’s next,” she said. “I think this type of news challenges others to step up and make their contribution. It’s really quite exciting to see how one thing influences another.”
Gregg Floyd, vice president for finance and administration at , which hosted this morning's breakfast, said the university has benefited from Burbick’s vision.
“All of the groundwork he laid was a critical investment that made the partnership that we developed with the city for the projects we’re doing that much easier to do,” he said. In addition to , the university has The Tannery, a marketing and consulting office, and soon to open School of Fashion retail shop in Acorn Alley.
Burbick’s next step: real retirement.
“Of course, I’ve told my wife that three times that I was done and some other opportunity comes up,” he said.