If you drive on Interstate 76/77 through Akron, you've seen Summit Lake. But did you know there is only one bench at the lake and it faces away from the lake?
The lack of amenities around Summit Lake could soon change thanks to the Knight Foundation and the Trust for Public Land. An environmental study is getting underway to find out what uses are possible for the lake. Kyle Kutuchief from the Knight Foundation and Matt Schmidt from the Trust for Public Land joined Jasen to talk about what's ahead.
A community meeting to discuss the future of Summit Lake will be held on January 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Summit Lake Community Center.
There may not be a lot of people who'd call voting "fun", but an effort in Akron and three other cities is aiming to change that.
The "Joy of Voting" project is kicking off, funded by $125,000 from the Knight Foundation.
Ben Phillps with the non-profit Citizen University says voting back in the 18th and 19th centuries had much more public involvement...and was more fun.
"There were street festivals and open-air debates, there were bonfires and parades," Phillips tells WAKR's Jasen Sokol, "so we want to bring some of that back...both in kind of that old school way, and in a 21st century way."
Ben says people shouldn't see voting as boring, as a civic duty that they "ought to do" - saying they want to excite people...making voting a party that they want to get involved in.
The specific projects are now being worked on in Akron and the three other cities, Miami, Philadelphia and Wichita, Kansas.
The arts community in Akron continues to grow -- and the Knight Arts Challenge is giving dozens of ideas a chance to create a lasting impression.
27 projects were named winners of the Knight Foundation challenge -- all sharing $1 million. Over 500 ideas were submitted into the challenge.
"Out of those, we got these 27 winners that we think, really, represent the true spirit of Akron, where it's going, ideas coming from unusual places and voices we don't hear from too often," said Arts Program Director Bahia Ramos.
Among the projects chosen this year: Turning a garage bay at the Akron Symphony into a stage for community jam sessions; helping Bhutanese women improve their traditional crafts; and creating a pop-up studio for glass making.
"The arts pieces are what allow people to identify with the neighborhood," said Kutuchief.
A report commissioned by the Knight Foundation has a lot of Akronites talking.
Some of its numbers were not at all what local officials and groups expected.
The administration of Akron mayor Dan Horrigan considers it a wakeup call...and the mayor's chief of staff James Hardy compares it to the Blue Ribbon Report recently delivered to the mayor...
"They both show that we need to make signfiicant changes in the way we think, the way we operate as a city, and the way we engage as a community," Hardy tells WAKR's Jasen Sokol, "to change our trajectory."
Hardy says that there are good things listed about Akron in the most recent report, but says the status quo "is just not acceptable anymore".
The lack of growth among the numbers of Akron's young professionals surprised Nicole Mullet, who heads up Torchbearers and the "ArtsNow" group.
"But it also gave us a starting point so that we actually understand what's happening in the city, so we can't fix it if we don't know what's broken," Mullet says.
Mullet suggests that some young professionals just aged out of the 25-34 year old age group, and others may be finding more affordable housing outside of Akron, in suburbs like Cuyahoga Falls...instead of in Akron's neighborhoods.
A new project says it hopes couples of all types can rediscover what Akron has to offer.
"YouHadMeAtAkron" is a website, and a hashtag, and the project asked eight couples their favorite date locations. It's a project of the Knight Foundation and the Akron-Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Jim Mahon with the Bureau says the "discovery" isn't just about romantic dates. He says any kind of "couple" can find out new places to visit.
Mahon says Akronites sometime forget what the city has to offer, and that the sites covered in Akron's 21 neighborhoods will help future visitors.
Those who use the "#YouHadMeAtAkron" hashtag on social media - Twitter, Facebook or Instagram - with a picture of a date at an Akron business are entered in a sweepstakes, with one $50 gift card to a date spot each week.
The grand prize is an overnight stay at the Hilton Garden Inn near the Goodyear Headquarters, and a prize package valued at $300.
The deadline is March 18th.
On the Web: You Had Me At Akron, http://www.youhadmeatakron.com/
The Knight Foundation has selected more than 150 finalists in the second annual Knight Cities Challenge -- including 10 ideas submitted in the Akron area. The national challenge is focused on picking some of the best ideas that would make cities more successful.
"One of the reasons theses ideas were selected, along with the rest across the country, is they're relatively short term," said Akron program director Kyle Kutuchief. "They can be completed within 18 months, so I think the community will be seeing these projects in the year ahead."
The winners will be announced this spring and will receive a share of $5 million.
"I get to focus on Akron, but we're always looking at what other cities are doing for inspiration, said Kutuchief. "But we are thrilled with the 10 that won locally and I'm hoping to assist as many of them as possible and actually getting funding."
Here are the 10 ideas that were selected in Akron this year:
#Route10: Akron's Better Bus Stop Project by 8 80 Cities (submitted by Alyssa Bird): Encouraging new conversations about transit and life in the city of Akron with a daylong event that invites civic leaders to experience newly animated bus stops along Route 10, featuring entertainment and new amenities.
Coffee/Drink/Dance (submitted by Annal Vyas): Creating a new website that pairs residents who don't know one another to attend events and meet for conversations that help break down barriers between people from across the city.
Middlebury House by Akron Honey Co. (submitted by: Brent Wesley): Developing the Akron Honey Co.'s apiary in the historic Middlebury neighborhood into a community space for recreation, education and other activities that help residents connect with each other and other areas of the city.
Cuyahoga Explore-a-Foot (submitted by Brian Davis): Encouraging visitors to explore remote regions of Cuyahoga Valley National Park by providing services and amenities, such as help with travel arrangements and baggage transport, that make it more accessible.
Akron Shorts by The Devil Strip (submitted by Chris Horne): Strengthening civic engagement by installing stations around the city that would dispense art, stories, trivia, games and more, and encourage the public to share their own creations with fellow residents.
Akron Innerbelt Bike Park (submitted by Jonathan Morschl): Providing new life for an abandoned section of highway by creating a "bicycle park" that promotes cycling, encourages new riders and attracts cyclists from throughout the region and nation.
Invite Akron by Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park (submitted by Jen McAnlis-Harvey): Encouraging use of the area's premier public space, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, by inviting residents from every walk of life, and especially those who don't regularly visit the park, to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial with free transportation and events.
Developing Community Blue Zones: Keys to Longer, Healthier Lives by Akron General Health System/Akron General Foundation (submitted by Laura Jo Hawk): Exploring how to create successful "Blue Zones" in Akron, areas that promote healthful living conditions and options, such as developing walking trails, shedding stress and eliminating food deserts.
One Lake One Community by #KenmoreUnited (submitted by Nolan James): Bringing together residents from different sides of Summit Lake who don't traditionally interact through a meal and celebration that encourages use of the lake as a shared resource.
Akron Tread Lightly (submitted by Shane Wynn): Encouraging biking throughout the city with a campaign that emphasizes the variety of experiences and amenities that are available by exploring the urban core on two wheels.