A few days before Christmas, the city of Akron issued a press release celebrating the completion of “Phase 1A” of the Main Street Corridor Project. The project, funded largely with federal money, involves a sweeping makeover of the centerpiece of downtown, including a roundabout at Main and Mill streets, a track for bicycles, improved underground utilities and a rebuild of the State Street bridge. Mayor Dan Horrigan described the project as “catalytic.”

That, it is. The thinking goes: Redo Main Street in a smart way, and the other elements of a better downtown are more likely to fall into place, for instance, the ambitious Bowery project next to the Civic Theatre and linking the campuses of the University of Akron and Akron Children’s Hospital (if not directly, then as a frame of mind). It is one thing to add apartments downtown. It is another to see residents in them.

These and other initiatives, larger and smaller, make this year, 2019, defining in many ways for the city. The mayor has the right idea in seeking to halt the city’s decline in population, and set in motion an eventual increase. As other cities have found, downtown has much potential for living space. First, it must have enduring appeal.

Thus, the crucial task for this year is to keep building on the momentum. Part of that involves the mayor and his team communicating more effectively about what the city is attempting to achieve and connecting advances downtown to improvements in neighborhoods, especially their business districts. It also goes to addressing persistent problems, for instance, gun violence and a reputation as a regional hub for illegal drugs, noted last week by Amanda Garrett of the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com.

The city won’t succeed on the population front if a perception gains hold that it is unsafe. The reality is that Akron is safe, except for known hotspots of crime and violence, where the police department has been focusing attention.

In this new year, the city also will need help. John Kasich recently vetoed gun-related legislation, in part, because the bill preempted the ability of cities to enact local ordinances involving firearms. Unfortunately, the legislature overrode the veto. On other items, the governor has not been so keen about local needs. One hope is that Mike DeWine, the governor-elect, will see the value in past levels of revenue sharing from the state to local governments.

The roughly $15 million a year that Akron has lost would make a big difference in its capacity to invest in the foundation of the city, its services and public works.

Help also could be there in the choices of the University of Akron and Kent State University, both are searching for a new president. Studies make clear the importance of strong research universities to the economic performance of cities like Akron and surrounding regions. It matters that the I Promise School in the Akron Public Schools proves successful in educating at-risk students, even setting an example statewide.

These are just some of the ways in which elevating Akron really is a collaborative effort. Yet it starts with City Hall, and thus in this defining 2019, it matters, too, that this is an election year. The mayor is seeking a second four-year term, providing an opportunity to raise his communication game. The races for City Council are shaping up as partly a sorting of rivalries and tensions long apparent among members and with the administration. What would benefit the city is a full discussion of how best to accelerate the momentum or rally to the narrative.

By this time in the next new year, the city will know much about where it stands.