More street lights, more police patrols, open space where old buildings once stood and now a new mobile tool to report nonemergency problems.

Those are among safety-related efforts — many of them underway for some time — involving the Exchange Street Corridor, an area south of the main portion of the University of Akron campus and where a lot of student rental housing is located.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan joined Interim UA President John Green, County Executive Ilene Shapiro and others at a news conference Wednesday to highlight the initiatives.

The city is working with the university and county "to improve both the perceptions and the reality" of the corridor, Horrigan told those gathered at the UA Off-Campus Patrol Office. The office is at the bottom of UA's Exchange Street Residence Hall, in the corridor.

The corridor is an area roughly bordered by Exchange Street to the north, Interstate 76 to the south, railroad tracks to the west and state Route 8 to the east.

Families right now are making decisions on where their children will attend college, Horrigan said. 

"As mayor, I want those families to know that a first-class education is right here at the university in a safe and welcoming environment," he said.

UA's enrollment declines and budget gaps did not come up at the news conference.

Cleanup/Fixup

The mobile tool is called Cleanup/Fixup and is available in the new UA mobile app.

It will allow UA students and residents of the area to quickly notify city officials of trash in yards, street lights that are out, high weeds and other problems that can affect quality of life, officials said. Cleanup/Fixup was developed by Summit County's Geographic Information Systems unit.

Cleanup/Fixup may serve as a pilot for possible future expansion of the tool beyond the Exchange Street Corridor, Shapiro said.

Reports will go to the city's 311 nonemergency call center and be routed to the appropriate city department to address. Cleanup/Fixup uses a GIS (graphic information system) that allows users to pinpoint on a map the location of the problem. Photos of trash, weeds or other problems can be uploaded. (The city has an online 311 reporting system — akronohio.gov/311.)

Earlier this fall, Horrigan said, he directed the city's enforcement staff from zoning, housing and nuisance to assess problems in the neighborhood. He said 119 properties have been targeted for inspection, repair or demolition. The city also identified "nuisance violations" — such as trash in yards — and all have been addressed, he said.

Concerning street lights, Green said, the university has worked with FirstEnergy Corp. over the past year or so to replace more than 60 nonworking street lights. Another 60 or so new lights are planned.

LED lighting is more costly to purchase, but is more efficient and would save money in the end, officials said.

Open space

Buildings razed include the old Plasma Alliance Center, at East Exchange and Brown streets and where for decades people gathered outside to donate plasma.

The long-discussed razing of Gallucci Hall, at 360 Grant Street, will take place in the fall of 2019, and will "open up a relatively large size of green space," Green said. A onetime residence hall, Gallucci Hall is a former Holiday Inn.

Asked whether some safety concerns are more perception than reality, Green said there can be a "tendency for overemphasizing the negative." However, he said, "What we don't do is deny that in an urban area there are potential safety issues."

Another effort involves UA realigning UA police shifts, beefing up evening and overnight patrols by UA police in the corridor. This was done before the accidental shooting early Nov. 10 in the Exchange Street Residence Hall. A 17-year-old shot a 19-year-old in the abdomen, university officials have said.  At the time of the shooting, the two were inside an apartment of a student who is an acquaintance.

Since 2014, UA has contracted with the Block-by-Block company for unarmed "safety ambassadors" who walk and ride bicycles in the area, looking out for problems. Block-by-Block workers recently moved to the Off-Campus Patrol Office in the Exchange Street dorm. The move was planned before the accidental shooting.

In addition, UA is upgrading security camera systems on campus and the surrounding area.

 

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her @KatieByard ABJ on Twitter or Facebook.