Gregg Mervis declared Tuesday “a wonderful day for downtown.” The chief executive of the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau sees the John S. Knight Center fulfilling much of its considerable potential with the arrival of a new hotel across the street, Akron gaining a significant measure of new energy at its core.
Downtown long has been suffering from a hotel deficit, the choices either in transition or worn and unlikely to recover sufficiently. So downtown advocates had to cheer the gathering of players, local investors and David Marshall of Amerimar Realty, a Philadelphia-based development firm with more than 3,000 hotel rooms across the country under its management. This group invites confidence in its ability to get things accomplished, no small factor given the many frustrations experienced in seeking to land a hotel downtown.
Hard to resist the planned location. It is not just the nearby Knight Center. A FirstEnergy or FirstMerit would find the location convenient. So would the University of Akron. And what guests would find, if all goes as planned, is an attractive blend of old and new, incorporating the charm of the Greystone building, a setting reflecting transitions, Akron past and future.
Now there is a reason a downtown hotel has posed such a difficult task, and it looms for this $40-million project, too: Will the financing get done, the so-far elusive combination of private money, loans, bonds and tax credits?
The players report the financing still is in the works, possibly jelling sometime in the next six months to eight months. Mayor Don Plusquellic offered a telling point: The renovations of Greystone won’t be cheap. Neither do the players appear interested in lowering their standards.
What holds promise are the many elements coming together, the need for a hotel, the know-how of the group, the right location and lack of a ready alternative. A wonderful day for downtown? When the money arrives to make it all happen.