Kenmore leaders hope the state’s recent approval to designate the heart of Kenmore Boulevard a National Historic District will be the key to attracting the development they’ve been seeking.
Once one of Akron’s busiest commercial districts, Kenmore Boulevard now has many empty storefronts.
Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance Director Tina Boyes says to reenergize Kenmore, the boulevard needs places people can gather -- like a coffee shop, a restaurant or a brewery.
But it’s a catch 22. Eateries usually open where demand already exists. So Boyes sees the historic designation as a tool to attract developers.
“This was built for pedestrians,” Boyes said of the boulevard, which was once a trolley line. “They didn’t have to walk far. They didn’t have to walk through a parking lot like we do now. So when a developer sees you have this form, you’re bringing pedestrians to a neighborhood, and I could potentially get federal and state tax credits to resurrect this building in a way that not only is historically appropriate but also meets a demand in the neighborhood. That’s huge.”
As one of 10 neighborhoods in the city’s Great Streets program, which invests in areas with small business districts, the Boulevard has been repaved. Under the city’s competitive façade program, small business grants are paying for new signage and improved entryways for the some of the businesses as well.
For the historic designation, the alliance mapped out several blocks between 12th street and Florida Avenue in the heart of the boulevard. According to local historic architect Lauren Burge of Perspectus Historic Architecture, Chambers, Murphy & Burge Studio, many of the buildings were constructed between 1908 and 1928 along and have retained the original workmanship.
The final decision by the National Park Service on the historic designation is expected this spring.