A key part of the Reconnecting Our Community initiative is to support the community visioning process for the short-, medium-, and long-term transformation of the portion of the Innerbelt that has been vacated (the sunken portion of the roadway between Main St and Exchange St.).
Because of the scale of the site (30 acres), the topographical constraints, and level of investment needed, redeveloping this portion of the Innerbelt will be a multiyear endeavor.
Our Phase 1 Report identified learnings about and recommendations based on community preferences for healing the wounds of the past and creating a more equitable future. The next step in redeveloping the property is to create a master plan for the site. In 2023, the City was one of 45 applicants across the country to receive an inaugural Reconnecting Communities grant from the US Department of Transportation. That grant, along with philanthropic contributions, will fund the master plan process. In the first quarter of 2024, the City will issue a national RFQ (Request for Qualifications) to identify a consultant team to lead the master plan process. The RFQ requirements will be informed by the US Department of Transportation requirements, Akron’s Reconnecting Communities grant, and this initiative’s Phase 1 report. The planning process that emerges will have a robust engagement process and continue to take into account the articulated needs and desires from community members. It will also evaluate physical and economic factors to determine what can be a viable plan for the site.
Knowing that permanent redevelopment is still many years out, the City is committed to looking for ways to create shorter term transformations that can turn a portion of the site into more productive open space.
Such efforts can also provide a testing ground to experiment with ideas that could be part of long-term redevelopment. And importantly, they can also continue the healing work initiated by the effort to date.