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Council renews Downtown Akron plan

12/12/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Akron City Council voted Dec. 9 to renew the services plan for the Downtown Akron Special Improvement District (SID). This is the fourth time Council has approved the plan, which comes up for renewal every five years.

“This has been a very successful program for us,” said Mayor Don Plusquellic at Council’s Planning Committee meeting.

Businesses within the 42-block SID, which is managed by Downtown Akron Partnership, pay a special assessment to fund programming and initiatives downtown.

According to the 2015-19 plan, public and private partners have invested more than $1 billion in Downtown Akron since 1995.

Between 2008 and 2012:

  • Downtown Akron residents increased almost 35 percent, from 1,205 to 1,623;
  • total downtown restaurants increased 41 percent, from 37 to 52, and retail destinations increased 38 percent from 24 to 33;
  • 56 hanging baskets and 14 concrete planters were established;
  • Facebook followers numbered 2,520, and number of unique website visits increased 262 percent; and
  • survey respondents were more satisfied with the physical appearance and feeling of safety downtown.

The SID budget will be $750,000 per year for each of the five years covered by the plan.

Also at the meeting, Council approved the site plan for a 37,000-square-foot office addition at Sterling Jewelers, 375 Ghent Road.

Councilwoman Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8), who represents the area in which Sterling is located, said she informed residents of the nearby Lake of the Woods neighborhood of the planned addition and received very little pushback. She said the addition goes very well with the existing buildings, and it is gratifying that companies in Akron are growing.

“It’s nice to see that we’re expanding,” she said.

Council also, following a public hearing, approved a request for a conditional-use permit to establish an office print shop and warehouse at 1518 Copley Road. Repros Inc. will relocate its company headquarters from North Canton to the vacant former post office and bring 12 new jobs to Akron.

In other business, Council’s Planning Committee had a lengthy discussion on legislation pertaining to the Commons at Madaline Park II project. At the regular meeting, Council voted in favor of the project, with Councilman Russel Neal Jr. (D-Ward 4) voting against it and Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large) abstaining due to her employment with Community Support Services. Councilwoman Margo Sommerville (D-Ward 3) was excused absent from the meeting.

The project will provide 60 additional units of housing for low-income veterans and disabled individuals in Northeast Akron.

Neal said his opposition stems from not knowing the full impact of Phase I of the project, which is being constructed by Testa Cos. While he said he supports the addition of housing for the vulnerable population, he would have liked to have seen how the first phase of Madaline Park, which was opposed by some of the residents in the neighborhood, played out.

Council members and developer Joel Testa countered there is an immediate, desperate need to house homeless individuals in Akron, especially with the coming displacement of residents of the Mayflower apartment building downtown.

“I see a needed use for this facility,” said Councilman Jim Hurley (D-Ward 2), who now represents the area.

Keith said she met with representatives of the Testa Cos. and visited Madaline Park I, and supports the project.

“This is a very good use of our land,” she said.

Several pieces of related legislation, including a land transfer, authorization of the construction of utilities and a resolution supporting Testa Cos.’ application for tax credits related to the project, also were approved.

Akron City Council will have its final meetings of the year Dec. 16 in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. The regular meeting will be at a special time, 5 p.m. Council members will be sworn in for 2014 at 7 p.m.

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