A new mixed-use apartment building planned for downtown Kent is much closer to construction following approval of several variances from the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals Monday night.
The board granted three variances to developer CollegeTown Kent LLC, a subsidiary of Cleveland-based Fairmount Properties, for 'Building C,' a mixed use retail and residential building planned for the southwest corner of the South DePeyster and Erie streets intersection.
Board members cited the small size and unusual topography of the building site in granting three variances, which permit the new building to stand taller than city code allows and loosen requirements for how close the building is to the public right-of-way.
Variances approved allow the building to stand 61 feet tall at its highest point — one foot higher than the 60 feet maximum — and to stand further back from Locke Lane, the alley bisecting the redevelopment block in which the building will be constructed.
Adam Branscomb, project manager for Fairmount Properties, said developing the building has proven challenging given restrictions created by the small size of the building lot.
The goal of the project, he said, was to build "the preeminent residential address" in downtown Kent.
"This is an apartment building that won’t have any peers in the market place," Branscomb said. "When you look at the small acreage of the site, you have certain elements which, in order to create abuilding that everyone can be proud of, we felt were necessary to be included, such as short-term parking spaces."
Loosening one of the two frontage requirements for Locke Lane sets the building back enough to allow short-term parking spaces so tenants can unload groceries and other items in temporary spaces close to the building before parking their cars elsewhere.
"Without them it would be difficult to lease the building," Branscomb said of the short-term spaces.
The latest design shows the building stands exactly at 60 feet tall, which is the maximum height permitted in the downtown district by city code. Originally, the project required a more than 2 feet variance, but value-engineering and other changes lowered the overall height to meet city code.
Kent Community Development Department Director Bridget Susel suggested the board grant a height variance to give the project some leeway in case of unforeseen difficulties incurred during construction.
Susel said the project met nearly all of the city's zoning and building requirements despite the challenges presented by the small lot and steep grade of the site.
"Building C is a critical piece in the redevelopment project," she said.
The board granted a 1-foot variance for the height in addition to granting two setback variances.
Zoning board chairperson Elizabeth Howard said the size of the lot and topography presented practical difficulties and hardships if the building were to adhere strictly to city code.
"That is a tough area to build," board member Dave Mail said.
Bricco, an Akron-based Italian restaurant, will occupy all of the first floor of the five-story building. The restaurant is about 7,000 square feet total. A total 32 apartments will be spread out with eight on each of the upper four floors.
Branscomb said Fairmount Properties has already sent out to bid the general trade construction work for the site, and the developer has applied for a foundation permit for the building with the city.
"The last item to accomplish before we hold a formal groundbreaking is these three variances," he said.