The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced a commitment of nearly $8 million to the University Park Alliance in support of efforts to revitalize a fifty-block area in downtown Akron, Ohio.
The largest portion of the grant, some $6 million, will support efforts to engage University Park residents, local businesses, and city institutions and ensure their direct involvement in shaping the direction and evolution of the revitalization project. Among other things, the funding will be used to strengthen neighborhood block clubs, community gardens, organized business associations, and other community-based programming with the potential to increase civic participation in the neighborhood.
In addition, a $1.8 million low-interest loan will support the redevelopment of University Square, a linchpin of the alliance's master plan to provide housing and shopping for University of Akron students and residents of the neighborhood. The loan will cover pre-development costs and credit guarantees for the project, which is expected to generate revenue for the alliance.
"This new support builds on the momentum of the last two years in creating partnerships and reengaging the community," said Jennifer Thomas, Akron program director for the Knight Foundation, which has committed $18 million over the past six years to the alliance. "The alliance's efforts are galvanizing residents around a larger vision for the city and engaging the next generation of neighborhood leaders who want to drive the city's future."