Goal: By 2025, Downtown Akron will be a center for
transportation, business, the visual and performing arts, entertainment, and will be a
residential neighborhood, hospitable to older and younger residents alike of all income
Discussion: Downtown Akron has been undergoing a transformation since the 1960's
when urban renewal replaced factories with Cascade Plaza. In the 1970's, Ohio
Edisons commitment enabled the construction of Akron Centre. In the past 20 years,
the City has assembled a critical mass of activity downtown: Lock 3 park and Canal Square;
CitiCenter and the Main St. Streetscape; the John S. Knight Center, the National Inventors
Hall of Fame, Canal Park, and Canal Place; and the Universitys re-use of
Polksys and the occupancy of ONeils by Roetzel and Andress.
If the last 40 years has been spent on "hardware," the promise of the year
2000 and beyond is to program downtown with the "software" to make the central
business district a vibrant and robust attraction that will lure residents and visitors
By the year 2004, if population trends continue, Akron will be the center-point of a 50
mile arc that will include more people within an hours drive than any other place in
Downtown has been fortunate to have energetic inhabitants which attract thousands of
guests to downtown each week: the University, EJ Thomas Hall, the Civic Theatre, the Art
Museum, the Library, the Akron Aeros, a new "restaurant row," and three highly
successful First Night programs.
In the future, the Downtown Akron Partnership (DAP) will utilize its newly-designated
Special Improvement District to maintain high standards of cleanliness and safety; to
develop transportation loops; and to duplicate the energy of First Night with City
Faire and similar programs.
The promise of the Ohio and Erie Canal Corridor presents downtown with the backdrop for
future success: a nationally recognized landmark that brings status, funding, and the one
ingredient that seems to have spurred success in other cities: water.
What will be required:
Downtown should be attractive:
- Akrons best design practices need to be showcased.
- Architectural achievements will be on a par with Knight Center and Inventure Place.
- Adequate green space, tree and flowerscapes, and monumental works of public art will
make downtown feel different.
Downtown should be approachable:
- Good signage is needed to identify access to parking, and the way to attractions.
- Well-lighted pedestrian ways with a visible police presence will make visitors feel
- A transit hub where buses, commuter rail, and automobiles converge will make the center
city accessible to all.
Downtown should be diverse:
- A variety of musical entertainment and a blend of dining choices will make the center
city open to all residents.
- In addition to affordable housing downtown, there also needs to be first-class housing
that will attract residents for whom the amenities of the center city will be a principal
reason to locate there.
- Business headquarters will locate downtown as well as incubators for entrepreneurial
Downtown should be interesting:
- An arcade of history museums housing collections of memorabilia related to rubber
manufacturing, airships, marbles, pre-history, and social history should occupy space that
would not otherwise find a ready tenant.
- A retail incubator would permit start-up art galleries, craft stores, and food
enterprises operated by persons looking for careers later in life and young entrepreneurs
who need some support to create new retail business.
Downtown should feel safe:
- The community at large, Hospitals, Health Agencies, the City should address the
population of mentally ill people who gravitate to the downtown. The City should develop
appropriate legislation that will assist safety forces in managing a difficult urban
To achieve these goals, the City should host an ongoing assembly with DAP, the
University, the County, and downtown stakeholders. A major facilities assembly should be
convened to plan for the significant capital that would be required to build and maintain
other possible venues: an arena, an aquarium, a botanical garden, an IMAX theater, a water
park on the canal, and ideas yet to be spawned.
The City should clearly identify the responsible post at City Hall for coordination of
downtown planning and construction to make investment downtown attractive and easy.