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Akron is Getting $5 Million to Bring the Public to Public Spaces

photo of Lock 3

Akron has gotten $5 million to connect public spaces along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. but as WKSU’sKabirBhatia reports, how to accomplish that will be up to the public.

The money will go to three spots: Summit Lake, Park East and the Civic Gateway, which is defined as the area between Cascade Plaza and Lock 3.  All three have potential for bringing people to downtown Akron, according to the Knight Foundation’s Kyle Kutuchief.  The foundation is one of the partners in “Reimaginethe Civic Commons,” which awarded the $5 million grant.  Kutuchief says the goal is to bring together a mix of people.

Public meetings will be Sept. 26 6-8 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre and Sept. 28 at the Reach Opportunity Center

“To the south you have Summit Lake, with some of the hardest hit Census tracts in the city. And to the north you have some of the highest-paid salaries in the county.  How beautiful for us to invite those people to share a space together.”

Dan Rice, CEO of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, agrees.

“Whether it’s the executives who work for the corporations, or whether it’s the residents around from Summit Lake -- that they come together in these civic commons spaces [and] they exchange ideas.  By doing that, we actually become a much more enhanced community.

"Some of these Civic commons cities don’t actually have a connection between their different civic common assets.  That’s actually where Akron’s ahead of the curve, because we’ve already got that connection through the Towpath Trail.”

Rice says similar, one-off projects have been successful in Akron in recent years, such as a fishing derby at Summit Lake and a cabin – with campfire – placed on Cascade Plaza downtown.

Two public meetings this month will help decide how the funds are used at the Akron Civic Theater (September 26) and at the Reach Opportunity Center (September 28), both from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia also received Civic Commons grants, and Kutuchief says those cities will cross-pollinate ideas with Akron over the next several years.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.