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Akron, Ohio

Great Streets Initiative Boosts Neighborhood Business Districts

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Façade grants and capital improvements breathe new life into Akron’s “mini-downtowns”

City of Akron Press Release
From the desk of Ellen Lander Nischt
Published: 04-22-2019

Last spring, Mayor Dan Horrigan launched the Great Streets Initiative to spark new investment in ten neighborhood business districts across Akron. And one year in, this targeted program is showing results and building momentum.

 

“Great Streets districts serve as hubs of business and social activity in our community,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said.  “In the same way that we are investing in a vibrant, walkable Main Street to reinvigorate Akron’s downtown neighborhood, we are equally committed to investing in our ‘mini-downtowns’ so business districts can grow and thrive in neighborhoods across the city.”

Great Streets is administered by the Office of Integrated Development and supports and collaborates with property owners to increase business development, grow community engagement and improve transportation conditions. It also seeks to enhance safety, aesthetics, design, and public space in these corridors. 

“In 2018, the City awarded $651,000 in façade grants to 35 property owners for exterior renovations,” Deputy Mayor for Integrated Development James Hardy said. “We also conducted a lighting study in partnership with GE and Ohio Edison, and worked with the Kenmore Neighborhood Association to repave and restripe Kenmore Boulevard to make it safer and more pedestrian and cycle friendly.”

This year, Great Streets will once again be offering façade grants for exterior renovations, as well as microloans for interior improvements. “Access to capital is a consistent challenge for these businesses,” Deputy Mayor Hardy continued. “These microloans make funding for small but transformational investments more accessible.”

Here is a summary of planned Great Streets initiatives for 2019:

  • Façade Improvement Matching Grants – The City has preliminarily budgeted $600,000 for façade grants for exterior improvements and/ or site improvements. Grant amount must be matched by private funds. Applications for the 2019 façade grant funding cycle are available online now through June 3, 2019.  Eligible property owners in designated Great Streets districts can apply here.

  • Great Streets Microloans - Commercial microloans between $1,000 and $10,000 are available for capital improvement projects. There is no equity requirement; however loans must be backed with a personal guarantee.  Applications are available here.

  • Capital Improvements & Parking Assessment - The City has preliminarily budgeted $300,000 for capital improvements in Great Streets corridors and will be conducting a Parking Assessment in the Copley Road and Maple Valley Great Streets areas. 

  • Small Business Challenge Program – The City of Akron will be working to connect new and/or expanding businesses with owners of vacant storefronts in Great Streets districts.  Stay tuned for a full announcement. 

  • Zips Invade – The City is supporting this University of Akron student-led program to increase awareness of Great Streets businesses. Zips Invade encourages UA students, faculty, and staff to leave campus and explore Akron businesses free of charge to them. This project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and uses social media to promote the “invasion” events, exposing new customers to the offerings of these local businesses. Follow @uakron on Twitter and look for a Zips Invade event coming to a Great Street near you!

 

            To find out if your business is eligible for Greats Streets programs, or for more information about the initiative, including boundary maps and the Business Resource Guide, please visit www.GreatStreetsAkron.com.

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