Before the Bowery redevelopment in downtown Akron becomes livable, parts of the row of decaying, empty buildings along South Main Street have to come down — a process going on now.
At any one time, 30 to 50 people are working inside and outside the buildings, including running heavy machinery that this past week has been tearing down unneeded outbuildings on the back of the six-building row that faces Lock 4 and the Ohio & Erie Canal.
The $42 million project is still in the early stages of a race to make a tax-credit imposed Nov. 29 deadline — just a little over a year from the official 2018 groundbreaking.
It’s a race that Dave Pyott, senior project manager for general contractor Welty Building Co., is confident will be done on time. Pyott, whose experience includes overseeing the renovation of the former Goodyear Hall on East Market Street into the East End apartments, recently gave the Beacon Journal a guided tour of the Bowery buildings.
“We’ve started construction down here. We have a number of contractors doing demolition,” Pyott said. “We’ve taken off the back of three of the buildings.”
The 12-story Landmark building at the corner of South Main and Bowery is serving as Welty’s project headquarters and it is where the first apartments will be built in former office space as part of the completed project’s envisioned work-play-live environment. Plumbers and electricians are among the crew members prepping ahead of drywall installation, Pyott said.
“In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be framing walls, framing apartments starting from the 12th floor down,” he said. “We’re moving right along and looking for a completion by the end of November.”
Meanwhile, the Landmark’s ground floor facing South Main that years ago housed a bank likely will be turned into a small grocery store.
The winter weather so far has not hindered work, Pyott said.
“We have temporary heaters,” he said. Only the Landmark has heat now, with heaters to be put in the other buildings when needed, he said.
On this day, a camera crew arrived to shoot clips inside the Landmark for an upcoming city of Akron video. Among the participants was Beth Borda with co-developer DeHoff Development Co. who is interviewing prospective retail and commercial tenants for the Bowery.
“We are continuing to look for tenants for the spaces,” she said. “We have a lot of interest, which is really positive. … We definitely are looking to secure a grocery. … We definitely want to raise energy for the spaces, both for Main Street and the canal side. We’re looking for restaurants, we’re talking with a microbrewery, we are looking for regular retail tenants that are non-food so we have a nice mix to go along with everyone else on Main Street.”
Craft brewer Royal Docks Brewing Co., based in Jackson Township, is the first business to announce it is in discussions to open a pub and brewery in the Bowery project.
Pyott said he likes the vision for the Bowery Project.
Apartment and commercial tenants at the rear of the row will have balconies overlooking the canal, letting people sit outside and listen to the water flow and also to any concerts taking place at Lock 4, he said. The demolition work now taking place is needed in part so that balconies can be put in place.
“It’s going to be nice,” Pyott said.
The crews have encountered unexpected things during this first phase of construction but nothing insurmountable, Pyott said.
One surprise included uncovering beams at one building’s South Main Street entrance in an unexpected location, he said.
“They have to be moved back to the right place,” he said.
When the work is done, “it will be a good-looking building,” he said.
Construction crews typically encounter those kind of surprises when they begin rehabbing and renovating old buildings, Pyott said.
The work needed to be complete by Nov. 29 includes repairing and replicating ornate plaster ceilings, retaining and refurbishing an old brass mail chute, cleaning and repairing tile floors, restoring marble walls, putting in elevators and more. A set of rusty, art-deco, metal railings will be cleaned up and repurposed; everything has to be historically accurate, Pyott said.
Two massive bank vaults in the Landmark building basement will stay put; Pyott said he’s not sure how they'll eventually be used.
Large holes are being cut so that a corridor can be built that runs from the Landmark into the adjacent structures, Pyott said.
Part of the Landmark building opens into an underground garage. That space has been redesigned as a tenants' entranceway and may include an Amazon dropoff, Pyott said.
“[It’s] a very interesting and exciting project,” Pyott said.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ