Rubber City University: Is Akron a college town?

AKRON -- Is Akron a college town?

If you asked the question ten years ago, you might get a different answer.

But now the vast majority of people WKYC Channel 3 News talked to on Twitter and Facebook and in person say yes. The Rubber City's industry has changed, and a proposal to increase the county's sales tax could cement it.

"I think Akron's always been a college town, it never really had that feel though because you haven't had properties like this," said Shane Riley, the new general manager at The Depot. "Up until a few years ago, the stadium was what, five miles away? Now there's a stadium on campus, two or three student housing projects."

The Depot is a 600-plus bedroom apartment complex, located on Broadway Avenue and designed solely for students.

When it opens in August, it will join a growing number of developments in Akron dedicated to serving a blossoming collegiate community.

"Everything that they are building, it's just turning into like a really very good vibe for college. And a lot safer and everything," said Khadija Smith, who is a rising junior at the University of Akron. Smith has already signed a lease with The Depot for next school year.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic says he's been working with the university for decades to promote the school as residential, not commuter, and to expand its footprint into downtown.

"The University of Akron is the most important institution in the community for future economic success," he told WKYC in a statement. "Graduating students enter our community and add great value to our economy and, whether we are labeled a college town or not, my administration will continue to work with University officials to foster growth."

A spokesperson for UA says that's a goal of its as well: a metropolitan campus where opportunities to learn can be found around the community.

Summit County voters will have to decide if they back a budding college feel. The general election in November will include an issue to raise the county sales tax to 7 percent from 6.75.

The increase would create a projected $20 million a year in revenue. About $7 million a year would be used to replace the University of Akron's aging James A. Rhodes Arena with another new downtown development: a 8,500 seat arena across the street from Canal Park to be shared between the school, city and county.

Many voters report they need more information, including the terms of a sharing contract, before agreeing to pay a quarter more on every $100 they spent.


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