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Micro-Unit Apartment Plans Downtown...

The developers of College Town Kent have one more parcel (also known as Parcel “D”) to finish out the redevelopment block in downtown Kent.

MicroUnitsAerial

The developers have proposed to continue the mixed use concept with 5,200 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and about 50 “micro” apartment units stacked on 4 floors above.

“Micro” apartments are the modern-day equivalent of the old fashioned “efficiencies.”  The look and feel of micro-units have been scaled-up to current design trends but the idea of simple living in a modest sized space at a great location continues to attract tenants today just as it did 30 years ago.

Micro apartments are all the rage among the hipster crowd in larger cities and the developer thinks that all those pretty hip Kent State architecture students attending classes across the street in the new College of Architecture building is a ready-made market to introduce the micro-concept in Kent.

Typically these micro sized apartments run about 500 square feet which means they build a lot of storage, beds, counters, etc., right into the walls.  What you give up in space you make up for in smart, efficient use and high quality design and materials.  These units are right-sized for busy lifestyles.

Micro Unit Example

Micro Unit Interior Example

No word yet on what commercial tenant the developer hopes to secure for the 5,200 feet of ground floor space but there’s been talk ranging from a brew-pub concept to an office tenant.  Tenanting is something College Town Kent does best so I’m anxious to see who they land for that prime space.

The footprint of Parcel D is relatively small so in order to get the kind of density the developer is looking for he’s got to go up.  The proposed building includes 5 stories and is consistent with the height of the Landmark building next store and the KSU Hotel across the street.

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Proposed Micro Units (left) and the existing Landmark Apartments (right)

The plans for Parcel D are currently working their way through the City’s Architectural Review Board and the Planning Commission.

So far so good and I’m hoping they can start digging the foundation before the year is out.

 

First Energy Fighting Fraud...

Crime knows no bounds — which is why First Energy has set up a scam and fraud fighting service to keep you prepared so that you don’t fall victim to the latest tricks of the crime trade that pose as utility employees to get inside your life.

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City Yard Waste...

One of Kent’s most popular services — the yard waste processing facility — has become a victim of it’s own success and we’re temporarily out of processed mulch for residents to pick up for free.

The good news is residents can still drop off their leaves and brush but they’ll have to wait to take any new mulch home with them until we can arrange for the tub grinding contractor to return to Kent and shred the piles that we have on site.

The City’s Service Director, Gene Roberts, issued this press notice last week:

YardWaste2015The City’s yard waste facility is located just east of the entrance to Plum Creek Park.

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Wanted: School Crossing Guards...

Police Chief Michelle Lee is actively recruiting for school crossing guards so if you know anyone that might be interested, please have them call us.

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Here’s the details from the Chief:

The Police Department is in dire need to hire at least one school crossing guard for the Doramor/Harvey post and three alternate guards for the school year.  If you know of someone who may be interested in the position(s) please have them contact Patti Long or Ptl. Llewellyn at 330 673-3221.  Some additional information is below:

Employment Opportunity-School Crossing Guard

The Kent Police Department currently has openings available for School Crossing Guards within the city. Posts are to be staffed at the following times, when Kent Public Schools are in session:

  • 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM (7:30 AM – 9:00 AM for Crain)
  • 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM (2:45 PM – 4:15 PM for Crain)
  • The posts are located at the following intersections:
  • Fairchild Ave. at Woodard Ave.
  • Crain Ave. at North Willow St.
  • S. Water St. at School St. and McDonald’s driveway
  • Francis Ave. at Elno Ave.
  • School St. at Franklin Ave.
  • Doramor St. at Harvery St. 
  • If you or someone you know may have an interest in applying to become a School Crossing Guard in the City of Kent, please call Ptl. Llewellyn or Patti at 330-673-3221 for more information about the requirements and responsibilities of the position.

Former Ametek Site Demolition Underway...

The City worked hard to get one of the last State allocations of funding from the Clean Ohio fund to clean up the former Ametek manufacturing facility on Lake Street.

Using a $1 million in State grant funds, the City hired a contractor to remove all of the asbestos from the building, break-down the large mechanical equipment, and knock-down the 80 year old building which has outlived its useful life as a manufacturing plant.

The knock-down part of the contract has now begun and we’re anxious to watch the site transform into a development-ready site for the new owner, Smithers-Oasis, to expand their adjacent production, research and warehouse business into the development-ready land.

Clean land, new buildings and more jobs.  That’s a great combination.

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Going, Going, Gone....

The former grocery store and dentist office that became the location of Kent City Hall for a couple of decades is no more — and the site is being cleared to make way for a new apartment housing project.

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When a developer offers about $1 million over the appraised value it’s a deal that’s hard to refuse, and although we had become comfortable in our make-shift City Hall complex, it came up short in areas of efficient use of space — and came up too long in areas like costs to maintain and repair.

A deal was struck in May and we moved out by June 1.

A little over a month later it’s hard to see any evidence that we were there but it’s exciting to see what’s coming next — “345 Flats” Apartments.

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Public Art Gaining Traction...

Kent has a great legacy of artistic expression across a wide range of mediums and there’s been series of individual arts events and gallery exhibitions celebrating Kent art over the years but there hasn’t been a “Friends of Public Art” group campaigning in Kent for more a more organized commitment to public art, until now.

Picking up on the spirit of collaboration which proved so successful in downtown Kent, the City, Kent State, Main Street Kent, the Chamber of Commerce and a growing list of local artists and their arts minded friends have been meeting for months to talk up the Kent art scene and develop some ideas to highlight Kent’s art rich creative DNA.

The early meetings were mostly meet, greet, and cheerlead for the arts — sharing ideas, aspirations and opportunities.  After a couple of months, the idea of a “Creativity Festival” in Kent started to take shape as a way to provide a canvass to display the diverse range of artistic expression that exists here in Kent.

Interest in an inaugural Creativity Festival is gaining some traction — enough so that a working group of local artists and event organizers have started to try to piece together the details for what Kent’s first Creativity Festival would look like.

They’re off to a great start but they want to hear more from the general public about what art inspires them, how they could use the arts to engage the community and inspire others, and how can the Creativity Festival be a launching pad for those ambitious goals.

To that end, the group has worked with a student at KSU to set up an online survey that tries to ask for input on these broad arts questions.  The responses will be used as a basis to guide the elements of the Creativity Festival later this year.

I offered to do my part to spread the word.  Here’s the link to the arts survey.  It’s quite short, I promise.

As a bonus, anyone completing the survey will be entered to win a pair of tickets to see Hairspray (July 30 – August 16, 2015) at Porthouse Theatre, Northeast Ohio’s premiere professional summer outdoor theatre.

Why Maintenance Matters...

I mentioned in the blog post yesterday that the City’s Code Enforcement Officer, Paul Bauer, passed his certification for the International Property Maintenance Code which we use here in Kent.

Two thumbs up for Paul — but also a round of applause for safety in Kent which all of us should cheer about.

I realize the title Code Enforcement Officer doesn’t necessarily bring out “warm fuzzy” feelings but that’s unfortunate because the Code was adopted to make sure everybody in Kent stays as safe — and frankly, Paul is a “people-first,” thoughtful person who looks at his job as a way to contribute to safety not write citations.

Fortunately, we live at a time when building codes have evolved to the point where safety is built-in to the buildings that we live, work and shop in, so the catastrophic fires or that plagued early 20th century neighborhood blocks are mostly a thing of the past — which is great but we still have to guard against a sense of complacency that lets safety slip.

That’s where Paul comes in; his job asks him to play the role of our community conscious.  He patrols with a knowledge of what can happen if the safety that was built into structures around town is allowed to deteriorate.

Deterioration happens, and time has a way of turning our favorite structures into trouble spots if we’re not diligent about upkeep.

That’s a truism for every structure but it’s particularly evident in college towns where lots of rentals, full of lots of students, lead to situations where the demands placed on older structures can be overwhelming.

Day to day safety is a concern at older, poorly maintained properties, but when you throw in college parties, it’s a situation that keeps Paul up at night.

The City and Kent State’s efforts over the last 5 years to ramp up our safety messages, and stay out in front of safety problems, has worked — party injury calls are down in Kent — but an incident at Cal-Poly over St. Patrick’s Day this spring was a reminder of what can happen when things go bad, and why Paul and his co-workers are so important in our community.

roof-collapseWatch the video of the garage collapse:  Cal-Poly garage roof collapse

If one reminder was not enough, a collapsed balcony in Berkeley this summer, killing 6 students, provided a tragic example of what can happen when dry rot combines with a heavier than normal load.

Berkeley City Council has responded by tightening their maintenance standards.

Maintenance matters because safety matters.

Maintenance Matters...

The importance that taking care of something along the way seems to be one of those universal truths in life.

In our personal lives we do our best to eat right and exercise — and in the city manager’s world we dedicate resources to preventive maintenance on pipes, roads and waterways.

Maintenance is never as exciting as a “new-build” but unless money doesn’t matter, maintenance matters a lot.

I read that Boston’s snow mountain finally melted off this week just in time for the dog days of summer — but I’m sure like Kent they’re dealing with a lot of other remnants of a particularly challenging winter season, especially potholes.

Kent City Council allocated an additional $600,000 towards street repairs this year and City crews have been working overtime patching the small stuff while we wait for our private paving contractor to arrive in town to tackle the big stuff.

The rule of thumb in the infrastructure business is that for every dollar you spend on maintenance, you save $4 in repair and replacement.

I’d suspect that similar numbers could be found for maintaining personal property as well.

Whether it’s City infrastructure or private homes, finding the money to keep up on routine maintenance is the hard part.  That challenge is amplified in a university city like Kent where so many homes are rental properties rather than owner occupied.

Over the last 10 years, the City of Kent has introduced many new initiatives to encourage (or at times compel) a higher standard of household maintenance to promote neighborhood pride.

First Tool Loan Customer

City lawn mower “loaner” unit.

The City has purchased equipment — and loans it out for FREE — that is typically used for routine maintenance.

We also have experts on the City staff that can offer advice on what needs to be done and how to do it.

When all that fails, we have the ability to issue notices that can lead to fines for dilapidated properties that have been allowed to fall into dis-repair.  That’s always a measure of last resort but sometimes it takes a financial incentive to inspire compliance.

I started this blog post on maintenance because I learned that the City’s Code Enforcement Officer has passed the International Code Council (ICC) property maintenance exam and now is a card carrying, certified International Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector.

He’s a maintenance expert with credentials — please take advantage of that resource if you have maintenance needs on your property or properties in your neighborhood.

City Code Enforcement Officer Paul Bauer
email:    bauerP@kent-ohio.org
phone:    330-678-8108

Police Training...

I thought it was worth mentioning that if you see a fair amount of Police activity on College Street today (July 15), don’t be alarmed, it’s just a training exercise.

In a couple of months the City will be knocking down the vacant houses on College Street to build the new Police Station.  In the meantime, those houses provide a unique opportunity to stage some police training events.

Chief Lee and her staff have coordinated a series of Police training exercises utilizing the vacant city owned homes and you will likely see Police equipment and personnel engaged in those training drills.  We’ve done similar training events in the past with our Fire crews and this is a great chance for the Police to get some hands-on training experience.

I don’t know all of the details of the training exercises but it wouldn’t be unusual to set up a hostage type of event, or stage a break-in, drug house, etc., in the vacant houses so the Police employees have the benefit of a real world setting to run through their tactical protocols and procedures.

Keep in mind, these are just drills — not an active crime scene.  No need to worry.  Thanks.

 

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