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Akron Mayor Shammas Malik has questions about Summa Health's acquisition

Akron Mayor Shammas Malik (right) gives remarks at an Akron Roundtable luncheon Jan. 30, 2024. Ideastream Public Media's deputy editor for news, Andrew Meyer (left), moderated the conversation.
Joe Gunderman
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Mayor Shammas Malik (right) gives remarks at an Akron Roundtable luncheon Jan. 30, 2024. Ideastream Public Media's deputy editor for news, Andrew Meyer (left), moderated the conversation.

Akron Mayor Shammas Malik said residents have expressed concerns to him about the planned acquisition of Summa Health by a venture capital firm, and he'll be asking the firm's CEO about them Thursday.

At an Akron Roundtable luncheon Tuesday, Malik answered questions about his plans for the city a month into his term.

Regarding Summa Health, Malik said he plans to meet with Dr. Marc Harrison, CEO of the venture capital firm, the Health Assurance Transformation Corporation. Summa Health announced earlier this month that HATCo plans to acquire the hospital and operate it as a for-profit company. The announcement sparked confusion and uncertainty among employees, residents and some city leaders, including Malik.

“It doesn’t seem like this is a short-term venture capital play, but at the same time, you have to ask yourself – what does a 20- or 30- or 40-year commitment of capital look like?” Malik said. “The biggest question I’m going to be asking him is, ‘What assurances can you give us that that is your time horizon?’”

On Monday, Summa Health leaders told Akron City Council the deal is the best possible option for the hospital to remain financially stable.

Malik's conversation with Andrew Meyer, Ideastream Public Media's deputy editor — news, also covered his first 30 days, in which the administration released its first capital budget, launched a national search for a new police chief and navigated the first serious weather event of the year.

“It’s been a wonderful month so far. We survived our first snowstorm — big shoutout to our service department and the folks who clear the roads,” Malik said. “We’ve got an amazing team of people. We are building the collaborations that we need to succeed.

Malik, who said he soon will release his 100-day plan for the city, also addressed the future of Downtown Akron, in light of the news that FirstEnergy is officially moving its headquarters out of Downtown.

The mayor said he is not too concerned.

“Most of the people left Downtown from that building in March of 2020, so it’s not like we’re seeing some huge exodus in Downtown," Malik said. “As a whole, I want us not to panic about Downtown.”

Noting the increase in residents moving into Downtown, Malik said he wants make the area more accessible by prioritizing a grocery store and other amenities. He said he'd like to see the creation of a Community Development Corporation focused on Downtown.

To bolster city neighborhoods in need, Malik said he is considering a plan to modify Akron’s residential tax abatement program, which now exempts property owners from paying added value taxes on new homes or home renovations for 15 years.

During his campaign, Malik said the program has stimulated development in areas of town that are more affluent, where there’s already an incentive to build.

Malik said he'd like to narrow the abatement to prioritize development in underserved neighborhoods that could benefit from it most, such as Firestone Park and Goodyear Heights.

“The city owns a lot of the parcels in there, so if we can figure out how to do that parcel-by-parcel development … then we really have an opportunity to stabilize and grow those neighborhoods,” Malik said.

The mayor also discussed plans for the upcoming solar eclipse, which he said may bring “over a million” visitors to Akron.

City officials, he said, are working with county partners to figure out emergency management and safety precautions for the eclipse, which takes place on April 8.

“We want to make sure that our parking decks are safe; that people aren’t just pulling over on the highway to look at the eclipse,” Malik said. “We also want to probably have some neighborhood-based sites, because … you don’t all need to be in one place.”

Community centers and libraries could be potential viewing sites, Malik added.

The full Akron Roundtable conversation will air Thursday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. on WKSU.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.