The city will “absolutely” monitor tenant turnover as a private developer restores the Mayflower Hotel, replacing housing for low-income and disabled residents of any age with tenants who are 55 and over in the next few years.
When finished, the historic downtown high-rise will feature street-level retail with concierge service to help the building's older adult tenants with their groceries, a gym to stay active and possibly space for a support agency. The project is one of the few serving low-income customers as developers pitch and plan higher-end apartments.
Seeking final approval next week, Akron City Council on Monday welcomed the idea of taking the 16-floor Mayflower Hotel from Capital Realty Group, then transferring it back the same day. The quick exchange would allow for future tax breaks to aid the projected $10 million renovation.
Capital Realty Group approached the city prior to buying the 1931 landmark in April. Tax breaks could include a 100 percent property tax discount for 15 years on the improved apartments and 30 years on the ground-level retail space.
Chief of Staff James Hardy said a phone booth famously used by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous would be kept on display after the renovation. The restoration is expected to begin in 2019 but could take “several years” to work around current tenants.
Helen Tomic, manager for Akron’s Comprehensive Planning, said floors and kitchens would be replaced during normal business hours. But no tenant would be forced to move due to construction. The developer has committed to 20 years of federally subsidized housing for older adults.
Council members praised the attrition plan, using vacancies to transition to senior living.
“Downtown needs to be for everybody. And the Mayflower can be restored as affordable housing,” Hardy said of Mayor Dan Horrigan and downtown development partners committing to equity.
At-Large Councilwoman Veronica Sims asked if the mayor’s office would monitor the rate of evictions to make sure tenants aren't being purged. Hardy responded, “absolutely.”
Councilman Rich Swirsky, whose ward includes the Mayflower, applauded Hardy for agreeing to encourage the developer to talk to the “articulate, opinionated people” who now live at the Mayflower before settling on a redesign.
In other development business, private and public officials are moving the final property pieces into place for the Firestone Business Park.
The city and county councils advanced deals Monday to set the development near the old Firestone headquarters on South Main Street. The new industrial park would be marketed to prospective employers who have jobs to spare but aren't interested in fixing up any of Akron's old factories.
“This is probably the first inner-city park for industry since the 1960s,” said Sam DeShazior, Akron's deputy mayor for Economic Development. Before the ground freezes this winter, the city plans to start road work supporting the private development.
The project encompasses 20 acres between Akron Paint and Varnish (APV) and the old Firestone headquarters. Of the five lots, the city owns three.
With legislation on deck for Monday, the county is expected to pay $25,000 an acre for one city lot of 6.5 acres. There, County Executive Ilene Shapiro would move some 200 employees spread across the county into a single building for the Department of Sanitary Sewer Services.
The city will hold on to another 5-acre lot tucked in the southwest corner for future development.
APV would sell its two lots to the city, which in turn would add them to its third lot. Bundled and sold to Pleasant Valley Construction Co., these 8 acres would carry the new industrial complex.
Because all the property would be formerly city-owned, Pleasant Valley may only pay taxes on the land for the next 30 years through tax incremental financing. The city also could offer income tax breaks to future employers, Hardy said.
DeShazior said his office gets 40 calls a year from up-and-coming or established companies looking for move-in-ready industrial space, which the city lacks.
In other business, the council voted against funding Balancing Act software that would allow citizens to see where their tax dollars go and then submit their own version of the city's budget. Councilman Russ Neal, who proposed purchasing the $8,500 software, said he'll re-introduce it to the council after he finds money to pay for it in the council's budget.
Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.