No Big Changes Planned to Parking Lot Downtown

Patch's Visions for Vacancies examines vacant commercial properties and their redevelopment possibilities

Yet another downtown block can expect to see some things change and others stay the same during the next two years as city officials examine the redevelopment of the existing .

Three elements — the existing courthouse, its adjacent parking and the current building — all will see changes in the next two years and are all located within the downtown block bordered by South Water Street, Erie Street, West College and Franklin avenues.

Despite surrounding changes, the parking lot will remain largely unchanged.

As part of the new courthouse project, city officials will from Portage County officials and its adjacent parking lot at the corner of Franklin and West College avenues. The city plans to redevelop the courthouse building but the parking lot will remain a paved lot.

"The parking lot that we’re taking control of down along College (Avenue) without question will remain a parking lot," Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith said. "Those parking spaces are vital to serving all the businesses downtown."

Smith said the lot will gain a few paved spaces where gravel covers a portion of the lot's eastern end.

"At some point in the very near future the parking lot ... will get a makeover," he said.

In , the majority of readers who voted chose parking as the best option for the site.

The actual courthouse building poses a larger challenge to the city, as Kent City Council voted in March to pay $1,070,000 to buy a little more than 2 acres at 313 E. Main St. in order to swap it for the old building.

Smith said council members ultimately will pick which proposal is accepted for redeveloping the old courthouse, but recouping at least the $750,000 appraised value of the building will be an important part of the redevelopment.

"Obviously we want to offset the investment we made … so it won’t be donated," he said. "We do expect to get at least $750,000 for the building. We will weigh all business proposals. I wouldn't discourage anybody from looking at the site."

As part of the land exchange agreement with the county the court will remain open in the old building until the new courthouse is finished. That means the courthouse operations won't move for at least a year.

The final redevelopment piece in the block is the Buffalo Wild Wings building, which will be vacated when this November.

Smith said it's too early to say exactly what will move into the bar and restaurant space on Franklin Avenue.

"There has been a tremendous amount of interest in that building," he said. "I think it will remain a similar use. I think it will probably be an eatery (and) pub. A lot of the interest has been along those lines."


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