Downtown Akron Vision & Redevelopment Plan Moves Through Phase Two
September 27, 2017
By Abigail Bashor
Downtown Akron Partnership (DAP), a Special Improvement District organization, held its second public meeting for its strategic Downtown Vision and Redevelopment Plan on Tuesday, September 19th. In June, the inaugural public meeting was held to explore downtown visioning and opportunity analysis, collecting feedback from community members and outlining 10 planning principles to be incorporated into development. Phase 2 focused on market and place-based catalysts, analyzing the public input from Phase 1 and generating that data into an analysis of downtown’s driving factors.
Led by DAP and commissioned by Akron Mayor, Dan Horrigan, the redevelopment team also consists of a local steering committee and the Columbus-based urban design and planning firm, MKSK. The second public meeting featured a presentation by two MKSK planners highlighting development concepts and strategies through carefully designed graphics and response-driven plans. The Akron Civic Theatre provided the venue for the event, and the setting of the meeting tied well with the discussion of how to best incorporate new housing, recreation, and retail seamlessly with the city’s more historic institutions.
Plans included an outline for how to not only draw people downtown, but to keep them in the area. A diagram including opportunity sites, infrastructure assets, pedestrian-friendly walkways, and residential prospects were emphasized. Furthermore, importance was placed on cultivating a “proactive downtown,” where mixed-use development, activity programming, and revitalization and reinvestment are highly valued. Developing Main Street seems to be key, according to the consultants, as it is the main point of connection between spaces like Canal Place to the Northside District. Attracting residents should be the primary goal, and as those residents spend more time in the area, demand for and development of retail and business will follow. In a very cyclical fashion, this investment will further expansion of the city’s green spaces, which exist but tend to be hidden.
Improvements to downtown have already begun taking shape, although separate from Vision and Redevelopment planning. Recently, DAP received at grant from the Akron Civic Commons project totaling $74,326, of which $30,000 has been budgeted for enhancing the cycle track along South Main Street. In addition to this funding, DAP received a $1.5 million grant from the Knight Foundation to increase city vibrancy in three key areas; the North High St, the Link (University Ave. to Main St.) and Cascade Plaza. These types of updates go hand-in-hand with the input collected from residents at the Phase 1 and 2 meetings, exemplifying the city’s desire to match ideas with progress.
A final public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 6th, at the Akron Civic Theatre, where focus area concepts will be refined based on Phase 2 feedback and a draft plan for project implementation will be revealed.