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A Plan To Walk Akron's Downtown into New Vitality

A vIew of downtown Akron from Knight Center
Downtown Akron as seen from the Knight Center

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is giving the Downtown Akron Partnership $1.5 million to help make the city’s center more vibrant by making it a more inviting place for pedestrians.

Kyle Kutuchief
Credit Twitter
Kyle Kutuchief, Akron Program Director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation’s Akron Program Director Kyle Kutuchief says the money will help make walking downtown comfortable and safe. He says that will get residents of the hundreds of apartments opening here next year to stroll to nearby shops, restaurants and entertainment.

And it will help get thousands more people who work downtown out and about.

Rendering of Cascade Plaza
A rendering of a redone Cascade Plaza

“The strategies that work for residents also work for employees. If we think of Cascade Plaza as being a real prime public space next year, its good for the residents that will live there and it’s great for the Huntington, PNC, FirstEnergy, city of Akron employees that are in proximity of that public space.”

In addition to Cascade Plaza, funds will be focused on the walking link between the University of Akron and Children’s Hospital and on the North High Street area.

Map of downtown Akron
Areas the Knight effort is targeting

Kutuchief says studies show Akron hasn’t presented a strong enough invitation to walkers, and that cities that open to pedestrians have been able to reinvigorate their downtowns.

Kutuchief talks about inviting people to walk Akron

“By 'invitation,’ I mean comfortable places where you feel safe taking a walk to grab lunch, to have a drink with colleagues, to grab a cup of coffee and a newspaper and just sit and enjoy the space. We believe we can do that in Akron, too.”