A new shopping center has been approved for the corner of S.R. 43 and 261, but that doesn't mean Kent residents should expect construction to begin any time soon.
A variety of issues, including traffic improvements and decisions on who will pay for them, must be resolved before construction can begin on the "power center" proposed for the corner of S.R. 43 and 261.
Developers Diversified gained approval this week from the Kent Planning Commission for a shopping center on the 55-acre site. The proposal calls for seven stores _ three large and four small _ plus four outparcels. Construction won't begin until fall at the earliest and probably next spring, said Richard Dreher of the Beachwood based development company.
The developers are requesting no variances, so approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals is not needed, said Development Planner Dayna Anderson. City Council also does not need to review the proposal.
However, there are still significant review steps that need to take place internally before construction can start, she said, including making sure developers meet all 21 conditions of the planning commission's approval.
The condition at the top of the list is approval by the Ohio Department of Transportation for the right in/right out driveway along S.R. 261.
ODOT has already turned down the developer's initial request for the driveway, a standard step in the process. The developer has applied for a variance that would permit construction of the drive.
A decision is expected on the request by the end of March, said Chris Messenger of the ODOT permit office.
That decision could make or break plans to build the shopping center as it is currently planned.
"It's a critical part of our development," Dreher said.
He said the access drive is part of the agreement to close driveway to Mike's Place. Once the shopping center is open, motorists will access the eatery's parking lot from within the shopping center lot and the access off S.R. 43, perceived to be a dangerous one, will be closed.
The driveway will also help relieve traffic at the intersection of S.R. 43 and 261 because motorists headed for the center will be able to get in without going all the way to the intersection, he said.
"It's extremely important for circulation in and out of our center," he added. "It would be extremely difficult for traffic circulation if there is just one entrance and exit."
The conditions also call for off-site improvements to be made, including upgrading the portion of Meloy Road between Campus Center Drive and S.R. 43. A small stretch of Meloy Road bordering the shopping center would also be upgraded, said Development Engineer Christopher Papp.
The approval assumes that all upgrades will be funded by the developer unless other arrangements are negotiated with the city, county or state.
Dreher said it is unclear whether the group will seek assistance with the off-site improvements, since it is unclear how much the upgrades will cost.
"Until we know the true price, we'd be getting ahead of ourselves," he said. "Maybe it will be paid by us, maybe another entity."
He said those decisions could affect the project if developers determine that the cost of the improvements is so extensive that it would threaten the viability of the project.
Anderson said the development will first be reviewed by the engineering department, then proceed to the community development department for inspections and building permits.
However, Building Inspector Charles Huber said most of the inspections won't be done internally. He said he is invoking a section of the state building code requiring developers to hire their own inspectors because of the scale of the project. Only the inspections for fire suppression will be done by city inspectors, he said.