Council considers more student housing, partners to
Akron City Council
By Maria Lindsay
More student housing could be coming to Downtown Akron.
At the Nov. 19 meeting, Akron City Council reviewed a proposal called the Exchange Street Urban Renewal Area Economic Development Plan, which would open the road to the $25 million construction of a 450-bed student apartment and retail complex and additional parking space in an area bounded by East Exchange, South Main, Cedar and South High streets.
Council did not vote on the proposal and referred that item and four other pieces of legislation associated with the proposal to a future meeting.
One piece of legislation includes a proposal to amend the zoning map for the property on the northwest corner of South High and Cedar streets by changing the commercial use district classification to a retail-business use district classification. A public hearing on the request is scheduled for Dec. 3, along with a public hearing on the plan.
Another piece of legislation authorizes the acquisition of 2 acres of land located at 405 S. High St., owned by the Akron Area Board of Realtors, for $1.4 million to provide parking space, and yet another approves the sale of 1.08 acres of city-owned property on South High, Exchange, Cedar and South Main streets to Exchange Street Associates LLC for $129,000. That property will include Incentive District Tax Increment Financing and be developed for parking.
The last item includes a vacation plat of 199 feet for Maiden Lane Alley north of Cedar Street.
Councilman John Conti (D-at large) questioned the need for more student housing in light of the recent announcement by The University of Akron to convert rooms in the Crowne Plaza Hotel into student housing.
“There is a strong demand for student housing,” said city Planning Director Warren Woolford. “These will generate more activity for Downtown Akron and downtown living.”
The project is expected to be completed in 2009.
In more downtown business, Council approved the annual extension of a lease agreement with the YMCA for the CitiCenter Athletic Facility for $75,000.
According to city officials, the facility is used by city employees and other employees of downtown businesses.
Conti once again questioned the proposal, noting the facility costs $233,000 to operate.
“This [loss] has been going on for at least five years,” he said. “It is time to take a strong look at this.”
Council also approved a donation of $10,000 to the “Goods for Guns” gun-buy-back program, bringing the total for the program, as of Nov. 19, to $17,000.
The program will offer a $100 gift voucher for either groceries or athletic apparel in exchange for a gun, with no questions asked and no identification required. The firearms will be accepted Dec. 7 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church locations at 1225 Vernon Odom Blvd. and 270 E. Wilbeth Road.
According to the legislation, in 2006 there were 675 incidents of weapon-related crimes, including 22 homicides with firearms, 1,294 9-1-1 calls reporting shots fired and 168 calls of actual gunshots witnessed.
“This program won’t solve the problem on our streets, but we have to start somewhere,” said Council Vice President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10).
In another vote, Council agreed to place on the consent agenda a contract with the Vito Gironda Construction Co. to remove the median along Romig Road, paving the way for development plans for the strip. One of those plans includes a move by BMJ Ltd. from 4100 Embassy Parkway to the former Toys “R” Us site, allowing the company to expand from 106 employees to 260 in the next three years.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers on the third floor of the Municipal Building, located at 166 S. High Street. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. [For details on Council’s Nov. 26 meeting, see Page 1.]