Yesterday I rattled on a bit offering a favorable view on the West River redevelopment. I realized later that I had failed to mention the role of the Kent Downtown Urban Redevelopment Corporation in the project. The Kent Downtown Urban Redevelopment Corporation didn’t necessarily do the project but they made the project possible. That’s exactly what the State of Ohio had in mind when they passed legislation that authorized the creation of this type of non-profit corporation — to help fill gaps and serve as a catalyst for making development projects possible on behalf of clients like cities and counties. As we are about knee-deep now in our downtown redevelopment block project, I thought it was worth sharing a brief overview of who the Kent Downtown Urban Redevelopment Corporation is and what it does since it was critical to the success of the city’s last major redevelopment project.
One thing I should clarify right away is that the name, the Kent Downtown Urban Redevelopment Corporation, is a bit of a mouthful so it is most often referred to as the Downtown Kent Corporation or DKC. Technically the Downtown Kent Corporation is actually filed with the State as the Kent Downtown Urban Redevelopment Corporation as a 501-C4 but most people use the shortened version so just remember that regardless of the name, the functions described below are one in the same.
The DKC was created 24 years ago to leverage community redevelopment dollars and foster economic development. It’s important to understand that this is not a city agency, it is a non-profit development corporation that makes its services available to the city.
Like most organizations, the DKC has a President and a Board of Directors. The current President is Mr. Howard Boyle of Community Home Savings Bank fame. The DKC board includes the City Manager, the Kent Chamber of Commerce Director and 10 different downtown business and property owners. The DKC meets every month to review development opportunities and make recommendations to facilitate more investment activity. All of its meetings are open to the public and non-board members (including the Mayor) routinely attend and participate in the discussions.
The city has employed the services of the DKC for managing real estate transactions in particular development projects. The DKC has provided real estate services for both the City of Kent and I believe Portage County as well on a number of different projects.
At the request of Kent city leaders, the DKC has previously arranged for a line of credit to be raised and available for the city to use for land acquisition to assemble enough land to spur redevelopment activity. For example, it is my understanding that the DKC pooled financing from area banks to create the line of credit requested by the city to purchase the land in the West River neighborhood project. The city continues to pay down the line of credit at a cost of about $120,000 a year.
An example of the kind of activities the DKC performs would be contacting property owners to try to facilitate land deals. Just this past 6 months the DKC has been talking with property owners along Main Street to see if anyone had an interest in selling and/or being a part of a larger redevelopment project. Part of that exploratory work included having updated appraisals done.
As a result of this effort some of the property owners who were contacted were interested and as a result a couple of buildings along Main Street are about to be sold to new private owners who want to reinvest in the properties and make them stronger contributors to the downtown economy. These were private to private deals arranged by DKC so the city was not even involved.
Although the DKC is not a city agency, it has been careful to not pursue development interests that are inconsistent with the goals of city leadership. In other words, this isn’t some rogue development company, it is a collection of local business leaders that work closely with the city to help make things happen. One of the reasons the state created these corporations was because cities were struggling with making development deals happen by themselves. The DKC has more flexibility in negotiating terms of development deals than the city so they are able to do the leg work faster — and then hand it over to the city as a finished package to execute. Again, this means shorter turn around time which in the development world means saving money for the project.
The most recent deal negotiated by the DKC for the city was the Kent Hardware Store. The terms were such that the city is earning more from the rent to the Kent Hardware store than we were earning on interest from the funds, and we own the land which means we can make it part of a larger redevelopment project.
Whether you call them the DKC or the Kent Downtown Urban Redevelopment Corporation they are instrumental to making development deals happen in Kent at a price we can afford.