Focusing on four Akron districts

By Betty Lin-Fisher

Here is information about each of four districts in what the University Park Alliance is calling its master plan for development. The four districts are focused around three main streets — Main, Exchange and Market.

Crossroads District
This district is centered at East Market and Forge, where there is a vacant car dealership, two medical office buildings and a University of Akron building.

The area is the shortest path between the University of Akron and Summa Health System’s City Hospital campus and could be Akron’s new district for technology and innovation.

’’It’s a great retail location if there is going to be retail for future residents moving downtown,’’ such as a drugstore or small supermarket, said EE&K principal Stanton Eckstut.

‘’We see a really busy street with lots of resources and medical research, retail and offices.’’

Eckstut said his team envisions large parking lots that could be changed into parking on the ground and residences above.

Eckstut said a little farther east on Market, his team is suggesting that Summa consider building administrative offices on land it owns on the south side, across from the hospital, to give it ‘’a front door and a strong place that would totally transform Market Street, even if you have some [fast-food restaurants] nearby.’’

University Square District
This area along East Exchange has places where UA and city businesses merge. UPA Executive Director Eric Anthony Johnson said there are many national examples of areas where retail and housing can be geared toward a university lifestyle.

Said Eckstut: ‘’What I would love to do is blur the distinction between the campus and the city.’’

South of Exchange District
This area, near Akron General Medical Center and Akron Children’s Hospital, should focus on the nearby canal, which is not being used to its potential, Eckstut said. The master plan suggests a wellness center, loft apartments and a movie theater.

Children’s Executive Vice President Shawn Lyden said about 6.7 percent of the hospital’s 3,200 employees who work at the main downtown hospital live within the University Park area. ‘’I think it would be wonderful if we could have a downtown living option,’’ he said.

Main Street District
Main Street along the canal has a good start with Lock 3 Park, but Eckstut said he’d like a town square similar to a Rockefeller Center. If there were to be a new University of Akron arena, it could also be located nearby.

‘’We must get the Mayflower redeveloped,’’ he said, referring to Mayflower Manor, a downtown residential building that was built as a hotel.

Eckstut said Akron’s expertise in polymers could be displayed in the construction of new buildings. The Main Street District already has good things in place, such as the library and nearby John S. Knight Center, he said.

Eckstut noted downtown is also ‘’blessed with a canal system leading to a national park. I don’t know of another city that is next to a national park.’’

"Focusing on four Akron districts," The Akron Beacon Journal, April 9, 2011