What Do Akron, Airbnb and Bhutanese Refugees Have in Common? Exchange House

Feb 28, 2017

The bedspreads were created by women in Akron's Bhutanese refugee community.
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU

Akron’s North Hill neighborhood is celebrating the opening of a combination Airbnb and Bhutanese cultural center tonight  It’s believed to be the first-of-its-kind in the country. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on The Better Block’s “Exchange House.”

Like a lot of inner city structures, the 1913 frame house a block off of North Main Street stood vacant for years before the nonprofit Better Block bought it for $23,000.

The Exchange House is at 760 Elma St. in Akron.

Another $55,000 has transformed it into a three-bedroom hostel open to anyone -- and a gathering place for some of the thousands of Bhutanese refugees who have settled in the area. Better Block’s Katie Beck says it’s being marketed as “Little Bhutan in Akron” and the first reservation is already in – a French family arriving in August.

“They can stay in one of the rooms for a good price and then be able walk downstairs where it’s an arts and culture space for refugees and immigrants in the area. So we’re tryng to have ESL classes, performances, concerts anything that the community wants to use the space for.”

The rooms are currently listed at less than $30.  The first concert will be Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. featuring the Himalayan Music Academy.