AKRON - They call it "The Boulevard".
Kenmore Boulevard is the centerpiece of the southwest Akron neighborhood. It was once a thriving business district, but now many of its buildings and storefronts are empty.
The opioid crisis has hit the community hard, as has population and business losses. This past year, they even lost their high school. But one thing they haven't lost is their fierce sense of pride.
That's where Kenmore Better Block comes in.
Tina Boyes chairs the committee. "What we're trying to do is sort of re-imagine the physical space that is Kenmore Boulevard". Her group is painting bike lanes, adding benches and chairs for people to relax and enjoy the neighborhood, and they're inviting people to come explore what's already here and share ideas on how to improve the block.
Boyes is asking people, "What can we put here to best serve the community? What does the community want and need? What would sort of compliment the already bubbling music industry that's already here?"
The Better Block festival is showcasing that music scene with local acts performing Friday and Saturday. Visitors may be surprised at the depth of Kenmore's music industry.
Ed Michalec owns The Guitar Department, a music mecca that's been on the boulevard for decades. Next to his business is Lay's Guitar Repair. They're legendary in the music world and have attracted big name clients like Joe Walsh and Jimmy Page. Michalec added, "There's five recording studios in the area operating, plus a guitar string manufacturer. Kenmore is a pretty active music district."
But he wants to see more.
"It would be nice if, from Better Block, we see some permanent businesses that will retain the people from outside the area, maybe clubs, restaurants, venues," Michalec said.
Kenmore Better Block is happening Friday from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There's no admission.
For more information, click on the Kenmore Better Block website.
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