AKRON, Ohio — Jackie Easley has owned Cosmetique West Beauty Salon on Copley Road for two decades and loves her Akron neighborhood.
"It has been a privilege to serve Copley Road for the last 20 years of my life," Easley said.
However, Easley admits she's also concerned about crime in the area.
Last October, News 5 requested records from police and discovered there were 56 shootings since 2017 resulting in 24 injuries and one death.
"Over the past couple of years, we have taken precautions and started to lock our doors up to avoid crimes happening," Easley said.
The hairdresser is thrilled that a Better Block project could spruce up the neighborhood and give residents a chance to not only re-imagine Copley Road, but improve it.
"Almost every other building here is empty so we need more businesses to come to Copley Road," she added.
The Better Block works closely with neighbors to identify what works and what doesn't work and then demonstrates proposed changes over a weekend.
A meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Buchtel High School to get public input.
The initiative between Frederick Boulevard and South Hawkins Avenue is scheduled for May 24 and 25.
A $73,600 grant through the Knight Foundations is funding the project, which could include sidewalk cafes and pop-up businesses in some of the vacant buildings.
"People will have ideas for small business, for artistic performances, for places where they'd like to sit and have a cup of coffee with friends. This is a chance to demonstrate that for them," said Kyle Kutuchief from the Knight Foundation.
Similar grants have paid for other Better Block projects in the Kenmore, Middlebury and North Hill neighborhoods.
E.J. Brinson, who grew up in the neighborhood and is part of the Summit County Think Tank Coalition, said it's very important to give neighbors a voice on the district's future.
"The people here need our support. They need our hand. They need to make this community a better place," Brinson said.
Kutuchief expects the project will serve as a springboard for future development along Copley Road.
Easley hopes the attention to the neighborhood leads to better lighting, additional parking and more shops opening up.
"I want to see our image rebuilt because it's not a bad community at all," Easley said.