OUR VIEW: Tops Plaza sale would be a plus for Kent

Potential for new owner to redevelop prime retail location

Published:

A potential buyer reportedly is interested in acquiring the largely vacant Tops Plaza in Kent, which is good news. If an actual real estate transaction comes to pass, that would be even better.

Tops Friendly Market grocery store opened in 2002 with great fanfare as the anchor of the plaza, which is located at South Water Street near the S.R. 261 intersection. It closed less than three years later, as did a sister store on West Main Street in Ravenna, largely because Tops was unable to compete for market share with established supermarket chains.

The Ravenna site eventually was occupied by Valu King, and now houses Good Cents, a discount grocery store, but the Kent location has remained vacant for more than eight years. The demise of the supermarket led to an exodus of most of the other retail tenants in the plaza; only a hair salon and nail salon remain. The plaza, which is little more tham a decade old, is in deteriorating condition.

Kent city officials have confirmed that a potential buyer for the site at 1600 S. Water St. has been in talks with Cleveland-based real estate broker Reisenfeld & Company regarding a sale of the property. The real estate firm has declined comment on the status of the 11.4-acre site.

Redevelopment of the Tops plaza would be a plus for the South Water Street entrance to Kent, an area where retail development has tended to be problematic. A solid anchor tenant there could revitalize what is now a virtual ghost town, and with luck, might spur spin-off development in a location whose proximity to two state highways -- not to mention Interstate 76 not far south -- ought to make it a prime spot for retail.

The Tops location was the site of successful retail operations for more than 20 years, starting in 1968 when Clarkins relocated there from University Plaza. Gold Circle moved there after Clarkins closed in the early 1980s, and it flourished, too, but shut its doors eight years later. Successor chains were less successful; the original plaza built for Clarkins was razed and Tops built the present retail strip.

It's a sad sight now, a retail graveyard. Talk of a new buyer spurs hope.

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