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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
The news site MSN Real Estate just cited Akron, Ohio, as one of the five “most promising” real estate markets in the nation, defined by those markets expected to suffer the smallest slides. The forecasting firm Local Market Monitor made the picks.
The MSN report notes that Akron’s average home price of $148,508 fell by 4% in the last year, and that the local market should hit bottom this year followed by a modest 2% gain in 2013. “Jobs — especially manufacturing jobs — are coming back to Akron,’’ the report said. “Like many Midwest cities, there was no housing boom here to speak of. Values are down just 13% from the peak, about a third of the hit the U.S. as a whole suffered.”
On its face, the fact that Akron’s real estate market is to drop less than most others across the country may seem nothing to feel good about. A city doesn’t grow with soft real estate market. But if you look beneath the surface, there is reason for those of us in Akron to see opportunity ahead. The ranking also is affirmation of our economic recovery as we separate ourselves from the pack of traditional manufacturing cities stuck in the doldrums.
As the Harvard urban economist Ed Glaeser points out in his book Triumph of the City, not every once prosperous city can be restored to economic strength. But some cities can be saved.
The issue for cities today is who can and who cannot produce goods locally and sell them globally.
In Akron, we are maintaining and building a job base in traditional industries while creating new-economy jobs through the development of a vibrant medical industry.
On the traditional side, we’ve added jobs as a result in the uptick in the auto industry, plus we have Goodyear, Bridgestone Americas and nearby Diebold all building new corporate facilities here with a combined capital investment of $360 million.
On the new economy side, the business and university leaders in Akron have come together around a plan, primarily funded by the Knight Foundation, to leverage the economic synergy of our four major anchor institutions — The University of Akron, Summa Health System, Akron General Health System and Akron Children’s Hospital — to build a competitive city with a diverse economy. Seeing this potential, KUD International is now the project manager and major financial backer of the redevelopment of University Park — the 50-block are surrounding The University of Akron and bordering Akron’s three major hospitals. That signals hundreds of millions in capital investment beginning in 2012 and continuing through this decade.
Rather than coincidence, Akron’s ranking among MSN Real Estate’s Top 5 cities is a result of years of planning and proactive leadership in this city, which then led to new investment in the local economy.
University Park Alliance is particularly focused on revitalizing real estate in a 50-block area around the university. It is an area of great opportunity. Call us at 330-777-2070 if you are interested in learning more.
Tags: Anchor Institutions, Collaboration, Knight Foundation, Placemaking, real estate, The University of Akron, University Park Alliance, Urban Neighborhoods
Posted in Collaboration, Education, Leadership, University Park Alliance, UP Akron | No Comments »
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 »
Friday, July 8th, 2011
You may have noticed we keep repeating ourselves. We talk about collaboration. Collaboration. Collaboration.
For us, it’s not a buzz word. In our view, a group effort will drive the success of economic growth — and new jobs — in the core of Akron. Why? Because the work of repositioning a former industrial city for a resurgence is far too complex for any single institution to accomplish alone. As a recent guest viewpoint in the Houston Chronicle explains, economic vitality is about “the creative genius of great research universities converg(ing) with the business and societal ingredients that fuel creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and new business development.”
In Akron, we have clearly identified anchor institutions that are contributing to economic redevelopment.
For example, The University of Akron — and notably its world-class College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering — give us the intellectual power to develop new products. Combined with research initiatives at three local hospitals, the city is able to focus new product development on the biomedical industry.
But even this synergy is not enough, as scientists need business leaders to draw the venture capital that enables innovative new products to achieve market success — and create new jobs.
Government, in its pivotal role, offers incentives for new business development, and creates the right physical settings for new industry.
Within this mix, the role of University Park Alliance is to create a great community, with attractive residential housing, shopping, entertainment and other amenities to coincide with business growth.
Collaboration is really about pooling resources for the greatest impact. It’s also about understanding, to borrow a quote from the National League of Cities’ blog, that a rising tide lifts all ships.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, in a forward to one of its studies, went so far as to say that the “most important lessons from resurgent cities concern leadership and collaboration.”
We at UPA deeply believe that to be true, as leadership paves the way for collaboration. If you sense excitement in Akron right now, it’s because change is in motion. Keep following this blog as we document progress each step of the way.
Tags: Anchor Institutions, Collaboration, Placemaking, The University of Akron, UA Research Foundation, University Park Alliance
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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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