National Planning Expert Says Akron Has What It Takes to be a Comeback City

Feb 13, 2018

Mitchell Silver says the Towpath is the necklace that can string Akron's pearls together.
Credit LYNN ROSS / KNIGHT FOUNDATION

Akron’s population has been shrinking for decades, but the city plans to get 50,000 more people to call it home by 2050. 

In addition to its own redevelopment plan, there are other civic efforts to draw on some of the things that helped make Akron in the first place. A national expert on planning came to Akron recently to size up thes efforts

Right move
New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver was in town for a presentation about city planning, and a conversation with the community about Akron’s future as a central city. He also took time to walk the city, including the Towpath Trail and the locks of the Ohio and Erie Canal.

Akron Civic Commons hopes to use the features to bring people in Akron back together and make the city a destination. Silver thinks it's the right move.

“The city is on the right track. Civic Commons is starting conversation about creating places in the city.”

“In modern cities today, people are looking for places to experience” says Silver. He sees Akron as having great assets, with the locks and the canal examples of dozens of potential places of interest for people in the city. He says the Towpath is a “kind of the necklace that ties all of these beautiful pearls together in the city.” 

Canal assets --called by Mitchell Silver, "unique and authentic."
Credit Katelyn Freil / Ohio & Erie CanalWay Coalition

Recapturing the suburbs
Like most declining cities, Akron has lost many of its residents to its own suburbs. Silver believes that’s partly because the city didn’t have housing options that people wanted as the community evolved. He also says, through decades of economic withering, the city couldn’t maintain lifestyle attractions like retail and entertainment in the city.

But he says the new plans for the heart of the city, including varied housing and amenities that foster urban lifestyles, can change that -- especially because there is a national trend among young people to move to urban centers.

Silver says the plans and assets he reviewed and toured convinced him "that Akron can indeed be a comeback city."