Two new buildings planned at a former car dealership are helping drive efforts to revitalize the neighborhood surrounding the University of Akron.
A $15 million to $20 million medical, educational and retail building will join the headquarters of a counseling agency at the former Fred Martin Chevrolet site on East Market Street.
The new buildings will serve as a catalyst for development that could include a restaurant and other retail businesses, said Eric Anthony Johnson, executive director of the University Park Alliance (UPA).
These are the first major building projects for UPA, a nonprofit group working on the redevelopment of 50 city blocks around the University of Akron and surrounding areas downtown.
Along with the new mixed-use building, the first phase will include the new headquarters for Child Guidance and Family Solutions on the five-acre parcel at Market and Forge streets. Details of the Child Guidance project were announced at a breakfast Wednesday.
“These represent the first phase, with more to follow,” Johnson said of the overall development of the former car dealership, which the organization bought for $1.6 million last fall.
“As we enter the market on Building 2, our potential to draw in larger uses will exist. We just don’t know what that is yet.”
The developer of both buildings will be Columbus-based Equity Inc., a medical, health-care and mixed-use developer that has had projects nationwide. The UPA deal is Equity’s first in the Akron area.
“We’re thrilled to be investing in UPA’s vision and the redevelopment of Akron,” said Melanie B. Wollenberg, Equity’s executive vice president of development.
Child Guidance will own its building, and Equity Inc. will own the multiuse building. Occupants of that building will have the opportunity to get an ownership interest in the facility, Wollenberg said.
The development agreement between University Park Alliance and Equity Inc. specifies that UPA will get a portion of tenant lease payments, according to Beth B. Boggins, the alliance’s senior director for communications and community relations.
Restaurants, retail wanted
The bigger picture is the attraction of retail and potentially a sit-down restaurant on the site and in the area near the University of Akron and Summa Health System, Summit County’s largest private employer, Johnson said.
“This area is almost the quintessential underserved area,” he said.
The new building will retain the focus on innovation, medical and education with a retail mix while “filling in what’s missing in things like restaurants, convenience retail and anchor tenants,” Johnson said.
The two office buildings will run along the Forge Street side of the parcel. Johnson said the organization is saving the prime Market Street frontage for the retail/restaurant project.
“We need that visibility,” he said.
The new multiuse office building will be about three times the size of the 25,000-square-foot Child Guidance facility, Johnson said.
The project is separate from work being developed with KUD International LLC, a global real-estate firm that last year entered into what was called a “master services agreement” with UPA. The company is developing portions of a UPA plan for downtown Akron.
The partnership also allows KUD, whose parent company is Kajima Corp. of Japan, to work on financial and other resource issues to help local and other developers secure financing and reduce risk.
The first phase of the former Fred Martin property will take about half the site. The Child Guidance building will break ground by this spring, with the second, larger office building breaking ground by the end of the year, Johnson said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 firstname.lastname@example.org.