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$42 million Bowery project bringing retail space and apartments to downtown Akron by next year

Posted: 4:49 PM, Nov 16, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-16 23:24:09Z

For at least 15 years, six buildings that were owned by the city of Akron have stood vacant, a block of blight in the heart of downtown on Main Street near Bowery Street.

But all of the structures are about to get major facelifts through the $42 million Bowery project.

"It will add new life to Main Street, strengthening Downtown as a beacon that will help energize the neighborhood and connect people to Akron and each other," said Kyle Kutuchief from the Knight Foundation.

The plan will keep historic details of the buildings while also transforming them.

Mayor Dan Horrigan said a grocery store may be moving into the old Akron Savings and Loan building and 92 apartments will be built above it.

Between all of the buildings, there will be 36,000 square feet of retail space and 4,000 square feet of boutique office space.

Signing up tenants will be a work in progress, but Horrigan gave some hints.

"Everything that augments downtown living, whether it's a tailor or a baker or a grocery store, restaurants and bars," he said.

A complicated financing plan involving grants, loans and historical tax credits put the ambitious project on a fast track.

The plan is for stores to open up and residents to move in by this time next year, but there are challenges, according to Don Taylor of Welty Building Company, which is in charge of the construction.

"The challenge for us right now is some of the buildings are not really safe for us to be in and they don't look like what we want them to look like for being able to actually present them in their best light," Taylor said."

The Akron Civic Theatre — also known as the "Jewel on Main Street" — is also sharing in the major redevelopment.

A $5 million in grant funding will help pay for a second theater in the former Whitelaw building next door.

In addition, the grand lobby will receive a makeover. A line across the ceiling separates vibrant colors from dull colors. That's because funding to renovate the lobby ran out in 2002 and the job was never finished.

Other decor that has been chipped or damaged will also be spruced up.

"It means we can expand our mission for serving the communities," said Candice Carlyon, the president of the board of directors for the Akron Civic Theatre. "Demand continues to increase for diverse and high-quality arts and entertainment programming."

Around 2,600 people currently live in Downtown Akron. Between the Bowery project and other apartment projects nearby, another 1,000 people could move in.

Horrigan said the project announced Friday morning will be transformative and serve as a catalyst to make downtown more of a destination.

"Bringing more people down here to live and this is a big block of blight that we've had for a long time so this is the kickoff."