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Knight Foundation philanthropy accelerates transformation in Akron

By Eric Anthony Johnson

Today’s announcement of nearly $8 million in commitments from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to continue building Akron’s urban core marks an extraordinary moment for the city.

This new support builds on the momentum of the last two years, when the city leaders created a foundation for transformative revitalization of a 50-block area around The University of Akron.

In awarding this level of funding to University Park Alliance (UPA), the Knight Foundation not only validates, but champions UPA’s two-pronged development model.

The approach puts equal emphasis on redevelopment through capital improvement, and community civic engagement, which includes residents, businesses and property owners.

The Knight Foundation’s new round of support includes a $6 million grant to UPA over five years to meet goals that advance both civic life and residential and commercial development.

The foundation is also giving UPA a $1.8 million low-interest loan, which will support housing, retail and other business redevelopment in an area called University Square at East Exchange and Brown streets near UA. This low-interest loan is hugely important, because it provides the basis for a future revenue stream to perpetuate the work of UPA as a nonprofit community development corporation.

The University Square complex, estimated at $60 million to $70 million, will be the first project developed and owned by UPA.  For that reason, it is a linchpin of UPA’s master plan. In other alliance projects, private developers are the owners and they share a small percentage with UPA.

Needless to say, all who support the work of UPA are deeply grateful to the Knight Foundation for continued investment in the city, where the Knight brothers nurtured their first newspaper – the Akron Beacon Journal — into a national communications company.

It would be extremely difficult for a nonprofit organization such as UPA to carry out a project on the scale of University Square without significant support.

While Knight doesn’t typically invest in real estate projects, they are making an exception in this case because the foundation’s leaders see the value of the work being done in Akron and they see the potential future rewards.  Knight is helping us overcome a hurdle, so that the work of transforming Akron’s core can continue on a scale previously not seen.

This is indeed an exciting time for Akron, Ohio.  Subscribe to this blog to follow our progress.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 4:06 pm and is filed under UP Akron. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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