AKRON, Ohio — A $31-million construction project is still ongoing in downtown Akron.
City officials say the disruption aims to draw more people downtown, but it may be forcing some businesses out.
“We lost one of our unique neighbors in downtown Akron, which is a shame,” Cilantro owner Charlie Somtrakool said.
Several businesses have closed due to the construction, which started in July 2018. Akron city officials were not able to confirm exactly how many. However, Pots and Pans, a Jamaican cuisine restaurant, was among recent businesses closings. Paperwork attached to businesses door shows an eviction notice was filed against the business earlier this month.
"They actually opened up right before the construction started so unfortunately the timing wasn’t good for them,” Somtrakool said.
Somtrakool says his Main Street business is getting by with support from loyal customers, but he admits business has not been the same.
“We used to have like a 45-minute wait on the weekend and 200 to 300 customers per night,” he said.
He says once construction on the Main Street Corridor began, many customers stopped dinning in.
“We have seen a decrease in foot traffic, but we have seen an increase of carry out and delivery instead,” said Somtrakool.
Tony Troppe owns the historic building where Pots and Pans sits. He told News 5 he is overseeing renovations for the building and others downtown. He says he expected some businesses, including his tenants, to face challenges during the construction.
“I think you have to understand there’s going to be points where people’s businesses are going to be slower,” Troppe said. “It’s a cooperative collaborative effort that we just have to build along with people with the amount of businesses that are able to endure.”
Troppe says his goal is to help the city attract more people and business downtown.
“We are building a city of the future and we’re creating a great place that is inclusive of all ages, all races, all flavors,” he said.
City officials agree, but understand it has been challenging for everyone.
A spokesperson for the mayor sent the following statement:
The City of Akron is aware of the very real impacts that construction has on downtown businesses, motorists and workers. Luckily, the end is in sight for this catalytic project and we will soon be enjoying the fruits of our investments, as the Main Street Corridor project is completed in July of this year. Funded with a federal TIGER grant, the $31 million improvements being made on Main Street are creating a more vibrant and accessible corridor that will benefit generations of Akron residents and visitors.
During construction, Mayor Horrigan created a grant program for businesses on Main Street to help them cover expenses and weather the temporary disruption. Overall, our businesses have managed well, and we thank them and all our downtown patrons for their patience and their confidence in our vision for a stronger Akron. We look forward to celebrating this summer when we cut the ribbon on a brand new Main Street!