Akron protesters have climbed a large ash tree in an effort to block a planned development in Highland Square.
Residents say they are upset that the tree is scheduled to be cut down to make way for a 25,000-square-foot retail and apartment building on the north side of West Market Street at the former site of the Von and Crescent apartment buildings.
“Our main mission is to save this tree,” said Maureen Farris, 26, a grade-school teacher. “It is part of the fabric of our community.”
Ray Nemer, whose family owns the property, said the developers are not “out to get anybody.”
“If I could save every tree in the world, I would,” he said.
Nemer said the tree needs to come down along with a house to create an alley and parking for the new development between North Highland and Casterton avenues.
He said the owners have followed proper city procedures and he encouraged the protesters to do the same thing.
“Call your councilman,” he said.
The Nemers plan to move Ray’s Pub, which Ray Nemer owns, Mr. Zub’s deli and the Matinee bar, which other family members own, from across the street on West Market to the new building. The building would also include five apartments.
On Tuesday evening, a woman sat on a tree branch about 15 feet off the ground and a man sat on a wooden slat higher up.
Protesters first rallied around the tree Friday when they saw that someone had painted an “X” on it after several other trees had been cut down.
“We believe the more you demolish a community, the less like home it becomes,” Farris said.
David DiDomenico, 32, a community organizer, is also part of the protest. He said the group objects to the new building and has no intention of stopping the tree protest.
“We will say stay until they start cutting the tree down with us in it or they put us all in handcuffs,” he said.
Ray Nemer said he is happy the group cares for the Highland Square community. “We are trying to see it grow and expand,” he said.
Nemer pointed out that efforts are being made to save two old trees at the front of the property along West Market Street.
“We’ve got to put the building somewhere and the parking somewhere,” he said.
Along with a Facebook presence at “Save The Big Ash Tree,” the protesters are also on Twitter @bigashtree.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.