There’s nothing like ribbon cuttings to brighten a City Manager’s day and downtown Kent cut a couple over the last couple of weeks welcoming 2 new businesses and a new visitor center in the ground floor of the PARTA parking deck.
The PARTA Transit Facility was designed with mixed-use in mind — mixing bus, bike, pedestrian and car traffic with community/office space on the 2nd floor, and retail space on the ground floor.
“Shared” space is a cornerstone of good urban planning and downtown Kent has lots of examples where that theory has been put into practice.
The Phoenix Properties under the guidance of Ron Burbick set the standard for mixed use in the renovation of the properties along Main Street (including the old Kent Hotel) and he’s hoping to carry that success over to the ground floor of the PARTA facility.
PARTA is in the bus business — although they’ve been busy getting up to speed in the parking deck business too — but when it came to managing retail they recognized their limits and brought in professional help (Phoenix Properties) to get the job done right.
Ron has signed a long term lease with PARTA to manage the tenant spaces on the ground floor of the deck and he’s already got 3 of the 4 spaces filled with tenants — with the fourth (Cutler Realty) coming shortly.
For typical retail, the PARTA ground floor is a bit atypical. As a result of cost and transit configuration needs, the ground floor retail had to be built in an unusually narrow layout. The result is space that is fairly long east and west — but short north and south.
Since big name retailers are notoriously compulsive over standardized store layouts, the narrow space proved to be a bit of a challenge to find the right retailer fit.
Ron loves a challenge, and the Kent market embraces unconventionality, so we’re proud to welcome a new, locally owned shoe store, and the KSU Fashion Store to the downtown retail mix.
What Kent foregoes in homogenized chainstore retail, we make up for in unique, boutique style retail — and the shoe store and fashion store are great new examples of Kent’s home grown eclectic taste.
NEW VISITOR CENTER
With so much going on downtown and so many more places to check out, the new Visitor Center’s time had come.
With the downtown increasingly becoming a destination, and with a fresh crop of new students and their families arriving in Kent each semester, it became obvious that we need to help all those visitors find their way around and discover all of downtown Kent’s best kept secrets.
The Visitor Center provides maps, brochures, notices, announcements and is staffed with volunteers who serve as community concierge.
Ron has some great ideas to expand the Visitor Center’s technology to allow the visitors to tap into downtown Kent electronically but the building is a great first step.
Also, with the help of Main Street Kent, we’ve located a series of downtown directories that provide a map and listing of all the downtown stores, shops and destinations.