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Economy

Akron's Plan to Turn a Highway into Green- and Neighborhood-Space Gets National Notice

Abandoned Innerbelt
M.L. SCHULTZE
/
WKSU
The Innerbelt skirts along the west side of downtown Akron, then cuts into the near northside. When it was built in the 70s, it separated the Oak Park neighborhood from downtown.

Ohio’s Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan are touting the progress on deconstructing a highway that’s cut off a section of Akron from downtown for nearly 50 years. But as WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports, it’s still not clear what may take the Innerbelt’s place.

Dan Horrigan and Mary Taylor
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU
Both Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor celebrated the reversal of 60s-style urban planning that bisected cities with highways.

The idea of replacing a highway with green space has drawn national attention, and Mayor Dan Horrigan says it will be reviewed by the Mayors' Institute for City Design. But until that, Horrigan says he can’t even begin to sketch out what will take the place of the 32 acres of highway.

Horrigan says the city is in a unique position to have a do-over of the urban planning of the 60s.

“If you look at the planning process with all of the expressways, they cut a lot of cities in parts. Route 8 cut North Hill in half. The other parts of 76 and 77 cut the Summit Lake neighborhood in portion. I think we have a chance to do something over again. It’s not placing blame. It’s just how can we reconnect the city back again, and I think this is a good portion to do it.”

Horrigan and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor held a press conference at the top of the partially deconstructed Innerbelt to tout progress toward a project that’s been talked about for more than 10 years.

Taylor noted that the original design of the Innerbelt and other limited access highways that bisected cities was to help commuters get to work and back home to the suburbs.

She said the deconstruction will allow the city to reconnect what was a largely African-American neighborhood called Oak Park to downtown. And Horrigan said it also will work in conjunction with the upgrade of South Main Street and new construction at downtown hospitals.