East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation: Bringing revitalization home
The 2008 foreclosure crisis left hundreds of neighborhoods reeling, and East Akron was no exception. One of Akron’s oldest neighborhoods, the eastside now grapples with over 400 vacant lots both in residential and commercial areas, inevitably impacting the public perception and economic value of the neighborhood.
For over 30 years the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation (EANDC) has identified and responded to the housing needs of the community. When the foreclosure crisis hit East Akron, EANDC responded with budgeting and foreclosure intervention classes through their Center for Homeownership programs. And perhaps the most commonly known by locals include EANDC’s efforts to make Akron homes more environmentally friendly through the energy conservation and emergency home repair programs.
But their story goes beyond comprehensive services. Today, EANDC manages and maintains over 600 housing units in Akron, Barberton, and Canton providing families the option to rent or lease-to-own safe and well-maintained proprieties. They are also responsible for the development of mixed use and commercial properties including Middlebury Market Plaza, the first inner-city retail plaza to open in four decades boasting a one hundred percent occupancy rate, and bringing in over 130 jobs to the community. Most recent accomplishments include the development of 27 single-family homes built on lots that had once been abandoned and seemingly forgotten, in addition to the Arlington Veterans Housing project; 10 renovated efficiency apartments for homeless veterans on Arlington Road.
A passerby may see 400 blighted, vacant lots in East Akron, whereas EANDC sees 400 golden – or in this case, green – opportunities to make the neighborhood from Johnson Street to Joy Park, a destination and an oasis for families. Responding to the needs of the community as they have done for three decades, EANDC developed The East Akron Revitalization Plan, a strategic plan to address the short and long-term land use in East Akron.
The multi-year plan is not just designed to build houses, but to rebuild a neighborhood. From street edge improvements, neighborhood pathways, green spaces, vender stalls, orchards, community gardens, markets, to block parties and cafes – the Revitalization Plan will engage residents, advocates, and stakeholders to help foster and restore a sense of community pride and ownership of East Akron.
Whether through the monthly Community Conversation series or the newly launched Idea Factory, EANDC is spreading community pride around the neighborhood, sparking curiosity in residents and empowering individuals to stand up and take ownership their neighborhood. Because at the end of the day, “we all live here,” said Susan Schweitzer, director of development and communications at EANDC. “Whether you rent or own, it’s home.”
It could be anything from the disposal of litter that may have otherwise been ignored, submitting a creative revitalization idea to the Idea Factory, or simply going on a walking tour of the neighborhood to spark a conversation; anyone can play a part in the revitalization process – even if you don’t live in East Akron.
Engaging the community and recruiting volunteers can be challenging for any organization, but EANDC is energized and excited to show the community first-hand what they’ve been up to. They will soon launch the East Akron Transformation Tours or EATT, a trolley tour for community advocates and leaders, complete with a “menu” showcasing their economic and neighborhood development efforts. EATT is just one way EANDC is working to familiarize and improve the public’s perception of East Akron.
Schweitzer welcomes volunteers from all over Akron to the eastside, and invites them to participate in EANDC’s Volunteer Days. Recently, with the help of volunteers and residents, EANDC began green-space work on several vacant lots, including an abandoned and overgrown lot at Chittenden and McKinley.
Beautifying lots, according to Schweitzer, is a small change that can yield a big impact – and not just aesthetically. In addition to being quick and inexpensive ways to add vibrancy to the neighborhood, they’ve also sparked curiosity in the local residents and have empowered many to step up and help.
Revitalizing a neighborhood hit as hard as East Akron may be an ambitious plan, said Schweitzer, but it’s a doable one. Equipped with a strategy, a solid team, a hopeful community, and even a dream board made up of sticky notes stuck to on an office wall, EANDC is ready to bring revitalization home.
For more information about EANDC, visit their website. If you are interested in volunteering with EANDC, please contact Kyle Julien [email protected] 330-773-6838 x107.