The first phase of the Main Street Corridor Project is underway in Akron and by the time it's finished, Mayor Dan Horrigan believes it will be a game-changer for downtown.
"The Main Street Corridor Project will completely transform Main Street from building face to building face, including all underground utilities, on a scale not seen in several generations," Horrigan said.
In addition to infrastructure improvements, the project will create new sidewalks, a permanent bicycle track, smart LED lighting and a roundabout that will include a water feature, possibly a fountain.
"I don't know what it's going to look like. We're going to engage the local arts community," Horrigan told News 5.
Rep. Tim Ryan was among several officials who were on hand Wednesday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony even though construction started in July.
Ryan believes the project is the kind of spark downtown Akron needs to bring in entrepreneurs and help fill vacant storefronts.
"Strategic public investments into innovative programs like this one will lead to private investment happening," Ryan said.
However, some current business owners said the construction is causing them headaches and costing them money.
John Hamad, who owns Hamad's On Main, said sales are down about 30 orders a day since the project started right in front of his restaurant.
"I'm losing a $1,000 a week. That's a lot for a small business. That's money that goes home to my family," Hamad said. "You have one or two companies making millions while the small guys have to suffer through it. We were here first."
Mayor Horrigan said he understands the frustrations of business owners along Main Street and the city is trying to work with them.
"It's also part of progress too and we'll work with them to be able to hopefully coordinate people to get down there as much as possible."
The cost for the first phase is $31 million. Akron received $5 million through a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The city is paying $7 million for the project with the rest of the money coming from various partners.
The first phase is expected to be completed by 2020. After that, a second phase will extend improvements on Main Street from Mill Street to Perkins Street/Route 59.
The cost of the second phase is $11.5 million with $8 million coming from another TIGER grant.