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Akron's Horrigan Promises a New Approach to Spur Neighborhood 'Downtowns' and a New Main Street

Horrigan State of City Address
WKSU public radio
Horrigan announced an integrated development office and Great Streets Akron, both of which he said should boost the city's economic and community development.

In his state of the city speech today , Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan announced initiatives to boost 10 neighborhood business districts and to transform downtown.

During the speech, Horrigan launched “Great Streets Akron” to boost access, public spaces, safety and small businesses in 10 neighborhoods that were once their own small downtowns.

“I’ve come to believe that a scattershot approach to neighborhood investment just doesn’t work. We have to focus our efforts now if we want to achieve the results. And I invite neighborhood, civic and business leaders to join the Great Streets Akron movement, and I look forward to working with you to design vibrant districts that will once again become the backbone of our neighborhoods.”

After the speech, Horrigan said the change is primarily strategic.

Horrigan on strategy

“We’ll look at things like, OK, we’ll pave a road. But what else can we do with just that? How do we do storefronts with it; how do we ask the neighborhood or the downtown or people what do you want to see out of this project? 

Meanwhile, Horrigan talked of a transformation of Main Street downtown that will be more walkable, bikeable and green -- and less of a fast way out of town. He said the city expects to begin construction on that in July or August.

Throughout the speech, he pressed the need for Akron to embrace change.

He spoke repeatedly of partnerships to boost economic development and to improve life for the nearly 60 percent of Akron households who, he said, struggle to afford necessities. He promoted millennials, immigrants and entrepreneurs as crucial to the city’s hoped-for rebound. And he insisted the status quo cannot continue. 

Horrigan rejecting the status quo

“An economy that sputters forward, and neighborhoods that feel more and more forgotten. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to manage this city’s or my own decline. And Akron will not write that story, not while I’m mayor.

As signs of a turnaround, Horrigan highlighted plans to redo Main Street, and eBay’s selection of Akron as the first city in the U.S. to participate in a program to help local retailers market themselves globally.

M.L. Schultze is a freelance journalist. She spent 25 years at The Repository in Canton where she was managing editor for nearly a decade, then served as WKSU's news director and digital editor until her retirement.