The Kent Planning Commission signed off on the site plan for Fairmount Properties' Building C, a new mixed-used apartment building downtown, but not without talking about parking.
The commission unanimously approved the project, but all four members said they were concerned about the parking arrangements.
Adam Branscomb, project manager for Fairmount Properties, which will own the building, said both the residential and restaurant components of the building will rely primarily on PARTA's new Kent Central Gateway transit center and parking deck for tenants and restaurant customers.
Branscomb said Bricco would have to make arrangements with PARTA for a valet service they are planning, and tenants also would have to make their own arrangements with PARTA to buy overnight parking passes for the deck.
"That would not be something we would be doing on behalf of each apartment renter," Branscomb said. "They would be doing that themselves."
Bricco, an Akron-based Italian restaurant, will occupy all of the first floor, which is about 7,000 square feet total. The 32 apartments will be spread out with eight on each of the upper four floors.
The building, which is not yet under construction, will stand at the southwest corner of Erie and South DePeyster streets.
Kent Planning Commission member Peter Paino said he understands city code does not require on-site parking for the building because it is in the downtown district.
He added that relying on the parking deck for valet and customer use makes sense for the restaurant.
"But as far as the residents are concerned … I think there should be something that says ‘This is what these tenants are going to do,'" Paino said. "It’s kind of a little bit vague as to how the parking is going to work."
He said if the building were not located downtown, and based on the city zoning code, the project would need 93 spaces based on the 48 bedrooms and seating in the restaurant.
Commission member John Gargan expressed similar concerns.
"That’s sort of the default answer for everything," Gargan said. "Everyone’s saying their parking is going to be solved by the parking deck."
Branscomb presented a letter from Bryan Smith, director of planning for PARTA, that stated the transit agency would be willing to work with both tenants and the restaurant to make parking available in the deck.
Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith said that, in addition to the parking deck's 364 spaces, the new city parking lot in the center of the redevelopment block has 114 spaces that are open to the public on weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays. And, when finished, the new Kent courthouse will have 112 parking spaces open to the public also on nights and weekends.
"You can start to see there’s a lot of parking that will be used at different times," Smith said. "The PARTA transit center of course is crucial to this project."
Branscomb said they anticipate customers of Bricco will use the parking lot in the middle of the redevelopment block if they don't use the valet service.
Employees will be directed to free, all-day parking on Franklin Avenue.
The apartments, which will be one and two bedroom units, will vary in size from 680 square feet to 1,200 square feet. Rent will be, on average, $1.40 per square foot.
"These units will not be geared to students," Branscomb said. "They will not be marketed as student housing. Perhaps empty nesters. There may be some international and graduate students who live here. By nature of the Kent market of course there will be some students who live here."