University Park: 
Building up the City of Akron – 2011-10-09

By: Katie Sobiech

What makes a city great? I believe it is the people living in it – the dreamers, achievers, and people living out their purpose, building it up economically and socially, so that it is thriving in all areas.

Many have fled the city, instead of building it up. But individuals are needed to build, create, and inspire others to make Akron a more vibrant community.

Several grassroots efforts are currently being worked on to build up the city, but there are also bigger initiatives taking place as well – collaborations between city officials and organizations. University Park Alliance is one of these initiatives. Their slogan is “Do something great today!”

What is University Park?

“University Park is a neighborhood which surrounds the University of Akron. University Park Alliance is an organization that was started by the University of Akron, Housing Authority, (and others), with the initiative to really work to re-develop the 50-blocks surrounding the university,” Eric Johnson Ph.D., Executive Director, said.

Things are looking up for Akron! Just check out their website: http://www.upakron.com.

The website describes University Park as an emerging urban neighborhood in Akron where a diverse population actively pursues an eclectic and exciting life of health, education, sustainability, and community. The 50-block neighborhood is strategically located at the center of education, medicine, technology and culture.

They answer the questions: Why live here? Why work here? Why visit here? And why invest here?

They also focus on the arts, community events, dining, entertainment, shopping, and sports and recreation for those who are looking to have a little fun in the city. Their goal is to keep you entertained and informed at the same time.

Being funded by the Knight Foundation allows them to re-develop the 50-blocks around the University of Akron and work on this great vision for the city.

Why it Began

“It got started early on because the University of Akron recognized that the area surrounding the university really needed to take on a different shape in terms of looking at some of the social and economic conditions in that area. (We) really needed to work on making it a more stabilized community, one where people would want to live,” Johnson explained.

So a board was created and plans began to unfold.

“I think the biggest change for us has been to establish a master plan, and the acquisition of land, to really start to execute the plan on. That is tremendous. But also being able to quantify and have an impact on the 50-block (radius) which includes our partners, hospitals, and the university. We found that those institutions combined generated a 2.5 billion dollar impact on the community. So we have a lot to build on as we go forward,” Johnson said.

The Goal

The vision is to establish an all-around thriving city.

“This is what we’re really trying to do. In essence what we’re trying to say in a time that we’re facing some serious challenges is that it’s time to put your best foot forward. (We need to) focus on planning and development and things that really need to be put in place to not only create a great community, but to create a brainwork based on institutions like the University of Akron and Akron General Hospitals to create a new economy for Akron in general,” Johnson said.

“We’re looking at the neighborhood from a total perspective. I think it’s important for people to know that we may have bigger projects, but also focus on the community, building strong institutions around job creation, human, social, capitol, and public institutions. We’re looking at the whole entire spectrum of redeveloping the community,” he continued.

And they want interaction. They encourage individuals to share ideas and reviews, show up to community meetings and join in on community conversations. You can have an impact on our community!

Future Dreams

“The big thing I’m excited about is executing this master plan and getting some projects on the ground. I think that’s really going to send a message to the community that Akron and the area surrounding the university have all the elements to be one of the greatest communities around Ohio and even across the country. We’re really excited about that, getting that piece going, to say to the community that this is a real plan that can be executed in Akron,” Jonson shared.

University Square is an emerging project that they are working on with the University of Akron that Johnson is excited about as well. More to come on that in the future…

If you are interested in finding out more about them they’ve even jumped onto the social media bandwagon and have videos on YouTube, Tweets on Twitter, and updates on Facebook. You can also find a great variety of news and events and the latest on what’s happening in Akron on their website. They encourage you to speak up and have your voice heard. Make sure to check it out at http://www.upakron.com.

 

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