AKRON, Ohio — How do you reinvent the public spaces inside a city? This is the question the national program Civic Commons asked. In 2016, it selected 5 cities Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and Akron to see how public assets can be improved. Now those plans are about to become reality.
“Akron, Ohio, are you ready?,” screams the leader singer of the Atomic Punks as they greet the large crowd. It’s Friday night and Lock 3 is ready to rock.
“The live music. I love the classic rock and enjoy the bands that come here and play,” said Bob Heller, a concertgoer from Wadsworth.
The regulars show up, faithfully.
“Fleetwood Mac, Journey, AC-DC. The tributes. The tribute bands,” says Barb and Bill Ungashick of Canal Fulton, listing off their favorite Lock 3 concerts.
The Atomic Punks, a Van Halen tribute band, is packing in the crowd.
“I love the park,” proclaims Dennis Chapman with a scarlet macaw named Rosie perched on his shoulder. “This is my Friday date night with my birds. I love it here.”
But come Monday morning, Lock 3 looks a little different.
“As you can tell on a beautiful day like today there aren’t too many people here,” stated Dan Rice, the President, and CEO of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.
That's why plans are underway to create a 365 day-a year-park that includes, shaded seating, landscaped gardens, walkways along the Ohio and Erie Canal and a world-class performance pavilion.
PHOTOS: Renderings of Akron's Lock 3 Vision Plan
“Lock 3 is truly our central park,” remarks Rice. “And so, we really fell that our Akron residents as well as visitor deserve a world-class facility.”
“So, wanting to be able to uses this space all year round,” said Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville. “Not just for our summer concerts but also for our ice skating in the winter. But also other programming we can bring down here that residents can enjoy.”
So, they asked residents as part of Akron Civic Commons. Getting the community input on how they want to use the space.
“One of the things that we heard is that Lock 3 could be so much more,” said Sommerville. “Lock 3 the park is a lot of open space. There is a lot of opportunities to reimage and recreate the space.”
“It’s not a plan that has been developed by somebody from the outside,” said Bill Considine, the Co-Chair of the Akron Civic Commons Donor Committee. “It has come from our citizens here in the community. And they have ownership of it. And it is going to happen, and it is going to knock the ball out of the park it really is.”
Bill and Rebecca Considine helped raised the $10 million to transform Lock 3. Additional funding is from the City of Akron, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Summit County Government, and Ohio & Erie Canalway.
“It is a place where we can celebrate the arts, the bands, the music, the festivals. You know, Akron just loves to come downtown for a good festival,” remarked Rebecca Considine, fellow Co-Chair of the Akron Civic Commons Donor Committee.
It is becoming that regional destination that will hopefully spill out beyond Lock 3- and into downtown.
“The investment in park, trails and open spaces is truly part of our neighborhood revitalization strategy,” stated Rice.
With finalized plans by year's end, construction early next year -- we could see a grand "re-opening" by Summer of 2024. Then, there's Phase 2, which connects Lock 2 and 4 to Akron Children's Hospital.
“To create literally a play loop of different landscapes for children, for family members to really spend more time in downtown Akron,” said Rice.
That is the goal, to forge a stronger connection between residents, visitors, and the park in the heart of downtown Akron.
“Places like this are supposed to bring communities together and they need to accessible to everyone in your community,” said Bill Considine. “And that is defiantly what we are really making happen here in our hometown.”
“We are excited to see what Lock 3 is going to look like in the future,” remarked Sommerville.
And we’ll be ready to rock when it is done.
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