Over a period of 30 years, the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corp. has built a reputation as energetic and competent in developing projects and services that stabilize neighborhoods and enhance their economic value. To residents in the Middlebury neighborhood in East Akron, perhaps the most visible example of the agency’s record of community engagement is its role as developer of the Middlebury Market plaza on East Exchange, providing a full-service grocery store and retail outlets to the area.
Like other low- and middle-income areas in the city, East Akron has suffered from the long erosion of the city’s manufacturing base and, more recently, from the economic recession and the foreclosure crisis. Abandoned and vacant houses, empty lots and boarded up storefronts are far too common. Grady Appleton, the executive director of the corporation, notes correctly that there are many opportunities for residential and economic growth in the neighborhoods surrounding Robinson Community Learning Center.
But growth is more likely in neighborhoods where families can put down roots and become vested in building up the strength of the community. It is quite encouraging that the development corporation has made this goal the focus of its strategic plan to invest in the next five years some $22 million in a Robinson Homes East housing project, re-using mostly vacant properties, the financing coming from public and private sources.
The three-phase project was launched with a groundbreaking on Wednesday. The first phase of 27 residential houses, moderately priced and with a lease-purchase option, is scheduled for completion by next summer. It won’t lack takers.