Great Streets Initiative

Great Streets Initiative

Promoting economic and urban development in neighborhood business districts through comprehensive corridor planning, incentive programs, and public management reforms
Geography

Eleven neighborhood business districts

Sponsoring Institution
City of Akron: Mayor’s Office, Office of Integrated Development
Key Milestones
2017
Akron voters enact quarter-percent income tax increase to pay for road repairs, public service, and emergency services, with $4 million earmarked for road repairs and public service.
2018
The city of Akron launches the Great Streets Initiative, conducts business and community engagement to identify community needs, and begins the first round of the façade grant program.
2019
The city launches the second round of the façade grant program.
Financial Implications
  • Repurposed existing federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $600,000 to concentrate on façade improvements within eleven business districts over a two-year period
  • Awarded up to $30,000 to more than 20 individual façade improvement grant recipients
  • Avoided increasing municipal operating budgets or capital budgets by prioritizing ongoing street redesign within the business districts to maximize efficiency of public services.
  • Increased municipal income taxes by 0.25 percent to fund repaving both within the corridors and elsewhere

Select Initiative Goals

  1. Expand strategic and comprehensive urban planning
  2. Reestablish neighborhood business districts as active community hubs
  3. Improve civic capacity and transcend public sector silos
  4. Improve aesthetics, urban design, and public space
Implementation: Initiative Design
  • Public management reforms included restructuring reporting structures to bring together the Planning and Economic Development departments as well as the Public Works department to align their capacities in pursuit of a shared revitalization strategy. 
  • The initiative concentrates the ongoing business of the city (e.g., street redesign, bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure, resurfacing, plowing, street trees, streetlight improvements) for significant and visible change in all eleven corridors without significant additional capital investment in all corridors.
Key Innovations

The initiative is notable for putting into practice many of the strategies understood by experts to be effective for legacy cities. Neighborhood strategies are tailored to local market conditions and build on the unique historic and local characteristics. It also leverages existing federal CDBG funding to strengthen the urban core while engaging more deeply with community residents and businesses.

 

As the primary pilot project for the city’s new Office of Integrated Development, the Great Streets Initiative demonstrates how comprehensive and strategic planning can be implemented incrementally in a city with significantly constrained public capacity.

The approach reflects an awareness that Akron neighborhoods compete for the region’s residents, who select neighborhoods in which to live, work, and shop. 

Staffing and/or CapacityThe city’s chief of staff also became the deputy mayor for integrated development. Both planning and economic development staff now work together in the new Office of Integrated Development.

Strategies Utilized

See also
Rochester, NY

Promotional and branding program to strengthen the housing market in the Triangle neighborhood of North Winton Village, a target middle neighborhood in Rochester

Buffalo, NY

Elimination of off-street parking minimums to promote citywide development, density, and the use of alternative transportation modes

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