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The Suburbanite
  • Developer: Put residents downtown, businesses will follow

  • The director of the Canton Development Partnership says he is asked often, do you need businesses and restaurants in place before people will come to live downtown, or do the businesses come after residents are in place? He believes its the latter.

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  • Michael Gill calls it the “chicken or the egg” question.
    The director of the Canton Development Partnership says he is asked often, do you need businesses and restaurants in place before people will come to live downtown, or do the businesses come after residents are in place?
    He believes its the latter.
    “You need market-rate housing first, then you will have local-serving retail after that,” Gill said. “When we get people in and there is a need for retail, the whole system will react to that.”
    The Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University says maintaining an economically diverse residential base is critical to the health of a city.
    The availability of downtown residential units, the center says, is particularly important.
    Housing attracts labor and people tend to start businesses close to where they live if the market makes it possible.
    According to the center’s website, the availability of downtown housing may reinvigorate downtown business activity and housing is part of the amenity package that attracts business. Amenities justify higher rent levels for downtown commercial space.
    It’s a continuous cycle, but someone has to go first.
    ONE DEVELOPER’S PERSPECTIVE
    Mike King of King Properties has been in on the rejuvenation of downtown living for about 12 years. His love of the arts districts in Columbus and New York City, where his children live, inspired him to help create that type of atmosphere here.
    King now manages about 50 apartments either in or within two blocks of Canton’s Arts District, which is between Cleveland Avenue NW and Market Avenue N surrounding the historic Palace Theatre.
    King said his first Arts District rental was a storefront next to his office on Fifth Street NW.
    “The artist loved the storefront and was so appreciative, I thought there would have to be more like her, and there was,” he said.
    The Studio 5 building, he said, was his first in which he only rented to artists.
    “I’m real proud of that development,” he said.
    King had hoped to lead the effort of bringing people back to downtown living.
    “The demand is there. Professionals, single adults. They can walk to the restaurants, bars and nightlife,” King said.
    He said most of his apartments get rented before the previous tenant moves out.
    He has kept the rent low for the artists’ apartments and studios, but said he is raising the rates as the artists move out. The spaces are becoming more upscale as he refurbishes and rents to professionals and local musicians.
    Currently, he has one unit available in the Gilmore building on Sixth Street NW, just outside the Arts’ District. With eight-and-a-half-foot ceilings and hardwood floors, the one-bedroom apartment rents for $395 a month. In the Arts District, they’ve gone up to about $725 a month.