Posts Tagged ‘Community’« To Gallup CEO Jim Clifton: Akron, Ohio, is your example Award-winning promotions for Akron’s University Park speak to real plans, real substance »Award-winning promotions for Akron’s University Park speak to real plans, real substance »
Friday, December 2nd, 2011
If you want to get a glimpse of what’s possible in the area of urban redevelopment, take a trip to Milwaukee. I was among a group of business and civic leaders from Akron who recently visited that city to gain insights into their successes and learn how they are tackling ongoing challenges. It was an energizing experience for two reasons. One, I was impressed by what our gracious hosts had accomplished. Two, I knew Akron was embarking on much the same path, with what I believe to be great promise for the future.
Milwaukee is taking advantage of its own unique resources. The city is reinventing itself by systematically drawing on assets that already are part of the town. The Milwaukee River runs through the city’s heart, a characteristic the city has done well to capitalize on.
Milwaukee now has its vibrant RiverWalk along three miles of the central city. RiverWalk beautifully defines what’s new and promising about Milwaukee. You’ll find high-end housing, stores, restaurants and open walkways for art shows, music and festivals. This is the kind of place where people want to work, live and spend their time.
What was the critical first step to producing RiverWalk? Key community leaders came together and worked through the planning. City leaders talked to each other. That’s how the complex became a reality. While collaboration may seem to be a simple concept, it doesn’t happen everywhere. This kind of collaborative approach is what Akron and Milwaukee have in common.
Too often, communities are disrupted by siloed agencies, government bureaucracy and a divided business and nonprofit leadership. Communication is inconsistent.
In Akron, as in Milwaukee, a unified vision drives redevelopment efforts. With this kind of sharp focus on a viable future, University Park Alliance recently attracted KUD International, a leading international real estate developer, to be the project manager on the revitalization of a 50-block core area of our city.
This is a tremendous victory for our community, but it didn’t occur overnight. It is an outgrowth of years of city leaders talking to each other, weighing possibilities on how to parlay existing assets into new opportunities, and then creating the right structure to enable success.
UPA exists for this reason. We were created as a real estate development corporation to advance deals — such as the one with our new real estate development partner, KUD.
Akron’s leaders were so persistent in the need for this type of new organizational structure that they convinced the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to provide the necessary major funding.
This is the new-economy approach. It’s about leaders coming together, assessing unique strengths that already exist, developing creative financing and ultimately, creating and executing a master plan for implementation.
Yes, RiverWalk is a fantastic achievement other cities no doubt hope to emulate in one form or fashion. You’ll see if you visit. Akron, too, is building its own success. In the coming months and years, Akron and UPA will host leaders from other cities, and share our secrets to redevelopment success. Of this, I am quite sure.
Tags: Akron Beacon Journal, Collaboration, Community, Leadership, Placemaking, Urban Neighborhoods, Vision, Walkability
Posted in Leadership, Placemaking, University Park Alliance, UP Akron | No Comments »
Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
Unlike so many of my colleagues, I wasn’t born and raised in Akron, Ohio. So for me, the reason I’m proud to live and work here has nothing to do with the past. It’s all about the future that is unfolding here.
So where (or what) is Akron today, after years of trying to rebound from the loss of manufacturing jobs, primarily in the rubber industry? Finally, Akron can stand up and challenge anyone who is of the mindset that we’re just another left-behind “legacy city,” with a landscape defined by vacant lots and abandoned buildings.
We’re not that at all, although we could have been if not for people in this community who steadfastly pursued another path.
Today, anyone who goes downtown Akron can see the new and renovated buildings lining Main Street and beyond.
All this progress, and the things that set us apart, happened knowingly and unknowingly. Essential support came from the grassroots level — with approval of higher local taxes, for example, for new schools and libraries.
Local government took a progressive approach as well, through focused economic redevelopment and job creation initiatives. The University of Akron played a key role with a major expansion of facilities and new landscaping. Anchor institutions, including three downtown hospitals, furthered efforts by becoming building blocks for research and the creation of new jobs.
At all levels, from grassroots to the highest levels of business and civic leadership, Akron has benefited from a home-grown push.
Recently, former U.S. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros chaired a conference in Detroit on Reinventing America’s Legacy Cities. If you read the report, you’ll see that Akron is not on the list of struggling cities mentioned.
Also in the report, you’ll find recommendations for revitalization that resulted from the conference. Guess what? Those recommendations mirror Akron’s strategy almost exactly. We’ve analyzed assets, for example, and designed strategies, and recaptured surplus land for public uses when private markets stopped functioning.
As the report notes, change does not come easily or quickly, and long-term strategies take decades, not years.
In Akron, we know that. Akron’s progress to date, and today’s strategies for continued growth, developed out of decades of planning. In turn, today’s advancements set the stage for ongoing progress — and jobs — that will benefit our children and generations to come.
The key: To set a cycle of economic development in motion, and then keep it going, year after year, project after project, until one day a new future really does come into view.
Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
At University Park Alliance, we’ve talked a lot lately about creating a “sense of place” in the 50-block area surrounding the University of Akron. Well, let’s talk more about that.
By one measure, a sense of place is created by landmarks. If you think of St. Louis, for example, the Gateway Arch comes to mind. Mention Salt Lake City, and it’s the Mormon Tabernacle.
Landmarks, whether famous or not, certainly contribute to the identity of any city or town.
Of course, structures alone don’t create places where people to live well, work well and connect with one another with ease. Our idea of a sense of place relates to a total environment, and how people relate within their surroundings.
In Akron, the strong fabric of the community is a defining characteristic. We benefit from a proactive government that promotes development and job creation as well as neighborhood activities. We have a spirit of collaboration among civic leaders that enables progress through teamwork. Added to that, we have community members who understand their civic responsibility.
A great example: Driving around Akron, you can’t help but notice the new school buildings both within University Park and across the city. We have these new schools because our city, school and civic leaders came together more than 10 years ago to plan for the future. Their leadership inspired Akron voters to become the first in the state of Ohio to approve a local income tax for a school bond issue.
In recent years, similar collaborative efforts have resulted in new building and restoration projects that have changed the look of our core city. With the reopening of the Ohio & Erie Canal, for instance, Akron became the only city in America with a canal abutting a national park. Not too far away is Canal Park Stadium, the home of the Akron Aeros, a Double A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
There are dozens of other examples.
The point is that these physical locations reflect something greater — visionary thinking and planning that can produce results, and provide residents new opportunities to gather. Lives intersect, adding to an increasingly vibrant community.
UPA’s role is to expand this progress to central-city neighborhoods, so that options for urban living are enhanced. When we see an increase in pedestrian traffic — because more people walk to schools, parks, stores, restaurants and other places — then we’ll see a fully urbanized Akron. A sense of place is about ambience. It’s about creating settings where people want to live their lives, and where they connect with one another because it’s the natural thing to do.
Monday, June 20th, 2011
“In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
Harry S. Truman
Leadership is something we know we need. It’s especially necessary in times of economic transition, when a vision for the future translates into new jobs and improved quality of life for a whole lot of people.
On one level, leadership is the art of seeing the invisible. On another, it’s the ability to motivate people, helping them recognize a future filled with opportunity. When people believe their own needs and hopes can be fulfilled, leadership has succeeded.
None of this is easy. Right now, we have what amounts to a business plan for future growth. That we are a city with a growth plan didn’t happen by accident. Our community benefits from local leaders who accepted the challenge, analyzed Akron’s market and decided on a course of action that involves the collaborations of several institutions, including three hospitals, the Akron Public Schools, the University of Akron and the Austen BioInnovation Institute.
On a national scale, Akron is earning the distinction that our leaders worked hard to earn. A 2007 Brookings Institute report, titled “Restoring Prosperity Case Study: Akron, Ohio,” pointed to our sustained vision and leadership as a driver of progress.
Just last fall, the Austen BioInnovation Institute and the University of Akron Research Foundation became one of only six winners nationwide in a challenge grant competition managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Specifically, the federal government’s $1 million award to Akron recognized our solid approach to identifying new ideas, assessing their commercial potential and guiding the commercialization process.
What we have going on in Akron is special.
At University Park Alliance, we’re proud to be a part of this transformation. Our job is to create a sense of place in central Akron, so as new jobs are generated, we also build new housing, shopping and other neighborhood amenities.
The ultimate test of leadership is execution. It’s about putting talk into action, and bringing into clear view what was once invisible. We can see changes in Akron. The task ahead is to push forward to realize our full potential — to create new jobs, new engaged neighborhoods and a new future for our children.
Tags: Akron Public Schools, Anchor Institutions, Austen BioInnovation Institute, Brookings Institution, Community, Leadership, Placemaking, The University of Akron, UA Research Foundation, University Park Alliance
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