What is Great Streets Akron?
Great Streets is a City of Akron initiative aimed at improving 13 of the city's Neighborhood Business Districts (NBDs). By targeting city support and resources in these areas, 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.” -Former Deputy Mayor James Hardy
"The Great Streets Initiative is about bringing real change to the areas where our citizens are most impacted - the communities in which they live, work, and play. Akron is a great city because of its people, neighborhoods and communities, and by investing in these districts, we're focusing our resources to make a tangible impact. Chief amongst our program goals is our committment to work with our communities as partners in realizing their collective vision. Ultimately, each neighborhood has a unique story. Our job is to help them tell their stories." - Small Business Program Manager & Great Streets Administrator Mark Greer
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, pedestrian islands, 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, signage and lighting, to painting, landscaping and outdoor seating. Second, improve the look of the streetscape by increasing the tree canopy, street resurfacing and sidewalk assessments, repurposing vacant lots into vibrant public space, implementing planters, district gateway signage, district branded street pole banners, public art, 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 all 13 NBDs to LED street lights. Business and residential owners can refer to the CPTED Manual for effective crime prevention techniques and strategies.