How a Major Philanthropic Effort is Fueling One City’s Economic Makeover

Posted by Dr. Eric Anthony Johnson on

If you don’t know Akron, Ohio, you might be surprised to find a major charitable foundation deeply invested in creating an entirely new urban landscape that will support and encourage new economic activity in this former Rubber Capital of the World.

However, if you know Akron, you know this is where the late John S. and James L. Knight got their start as newspaper greats, and it seems fitting that the Knight legacy continues to shape the city’s future in an extraordinary way.

Because of Knight Foundation investment, Akron has a new organizational structure in place to ensure that we systematically draw on the strengths of our anchor institutions in order to generate new economic opportunity. At University Park Alliance (UPA), our role is to do the practical work, as discussed in Marian Urquilla’s March 29 blog post, to align “disparate actors” toward common goals. Our approach mirrors Ms. Urquilla’s recommended strategy in that our focus is clearly and narrowly defined. Last year, for example, UPA developed a Core City Vision Plan to revitalize a 50-block area around The University of Akron; architectural renderings illustrate our concept of an urban lifestyle in an environment of research, education, innovation and civic engagement.

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