What is Great Streets Akron?
Great Streets Akron is an initiative aimed at improving the city's Neighborhood Business Districts (NBDs). By targeting city support and resources in these districts, we are creating a notable impact.
"Great Streets districts serve as hubs of business and social activity in our community. In the same way that we are investing in a vibrant, walkable Main Street to reinvigorate Akron’s downtown neighborhood, we are equally committed to investing in our ‘mini-downtowns’ so business districts can grow and thrive in neighborhoods across the city." -Mayor Dan Horrigan
“When we asked Akron-area consumers which factor would influence their decision to shop in one district or another, 94% of those surveyed indicated that a ‘pleasing look and feel of buildings in the district’ would influence their decision to shop in one district over another. This tells us that funding opportunities for capital and façade improvements have the potential to positively impact not only the aesthetics of our neighborhoods, but the bottom lines of our businesses.” -Deputy Mayor James Hardy
The concept of Placemaking is the key approach to planning and urban design driving our initiative. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community's assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and well-being. Over the last few years, Akron has adopted several initiatives, Great Streets being one, to improve public spaces, encourage private investment, and support talent retention and attraction in the area. We summarize the key aspects of placemaking in our initiative goals.
Our Great Streets Goals:
Increased Business Development
Our Business Resource Guide provides a starting point to navigating city, county, and state resources as they apply to business development, including our locally led financial resources – the Matching Façade Grant Program. By providing these and other helpful resources, we aim to help improve the exterior, interior, and daily operations of our local businesses. Other business development efforts include business placement and developing cooperative business agreements.
Greater Community Engagement
Our program began with public neighborhood meetings to speak face to face with the community about their concerns and hopes for their neighborhood. Preliminary business and community surveys were also done in the spring of 2018 and plan to be repeated in the future to assess public opinion on our business corridors. Our team continues to hold neighborhood meetings, work with Community Development Corporations and businesses directly.
Improving Transportation Conditions
Creating pedestrian and bike friendly corridors and improving transit access, all while creating safer traffic patterns are key to creating a space that people want to visit. Our team assesses needs for road diets, bike paths, crosswalks, restriping, and addressing parking concerns in our NBDs in order to make our business corridors places-to-be.
Improving Aesthetics, Urban Design, & Public Space
Improving the look and feel of our NBDs is two-fold: First, improving business façades and creating a homogenous aesthetic for the district. This can involve anything from masonry work to creating outdoor seating. Second, improve the look of the streetscape though street trees, planters, the condition of the roads and sidewalks, etc. Our new Great Streets Design Guide offers business and property owners expert direction in creating, cultivating, enhancing and maintaining the aesthetic appeal and condition of their properties and overall districts.
Promoting Safer Neighborhoods
Safety is a common concern within all our Great Streets locations and supporting neighborhoods. The Knight Foundation awarded the City of Akron an Internet of Things Technology Grant in the amount of $200,000. The goal is to align this technology funding with the Great Streets initiative and crowd source community preferences for how technology could be deployed to address local concerns. Other ongoing projects include Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) evaluation of our façade grant recipients and moving our NBDs to LED street lights in the near future.