With investments in three neighborhoods and the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail that connects them, Akron Civic Commons is knitting together isolated communities through collaborative reimagining of public places. Temporary and permanent design features and regular programming are reestablishing the 100-acre Summit Lake as a place of civic pride and play, bridging diverse neighborhoods including Ohio & Erie Canal Park and fostering economic development and public life in Akron’s downtown.
Three civic asset areas, Civic Gateway, Ohio & Erie Canal Park and Summit Lake, along with the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are reimagined and connected to bring economically diverse neighborhoods together, build civic pride and advance environmental sustainability.
Akron’s demonstration focuses on three sites and the connection among them:
Located on the northern end of downtown, the Civic Gateway is comprised of a variety of recreational and social amenities, including the Akron Civic Theatre, Locks 2, 3, and 4 Parks, and Cascade Plaza. Design and programming across these assets reimagines the Civic Gateway as the animating civic heart of downtown, connecting thousands of office workers in nearby buildings with downtown and neighborhoods residents.
Once the “million-dollar playground,” Summit Lake is reimagined as a platform for activities such as bicycle shares, guided canoe trips, community gardens and cultural programming to attract local residents and trail users from throughout the region. These investments shift perceptions about and increase the use of the lake while improving ecological conditions, all of which generate new value for the area.
Ohio & Erie Canal Park:
Strategically located along the Towpath Trail between downtown and Summit Lake, Ohio & Erie Canal Park is a neighborhood with a diversity of residents including renters, homeowners and senior citizens. Through wayfinding, programming and investments in infrastructure, Ohio & Erie Canal Park is becoming a welcoming local gathering spot and an integral connection between Summit Lake and downtown.
These assets together create a chain, all connected by a linking, equalizing asset: the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
By testing ideas through creative prototyping, Akron is seizing the opportunity to dream big and fail fast, all in service of achieving success sooner. These projects offer a new model for community engagement, honoring all through the co-creation of a civic commons that brings citizens together as part of their daily lives.