Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
Civic leaders in Akron, Ohio looked at its central University Park neighborhood and saw all the pieces it needed to succeed. But there was no glue to hold it all together. Equipped with a major university, three hospitals, numerous research and development facilities and other businesses, University Park is one of the largest employment centers in the county. But once the workday was over, everyone would pretty much leave.
To try to build more of a neighborhood around this jobs center, a multisector group of civic-minded organizations banded together to reimagine University Park. What’s resulted is an ambitious plan to dramatically reshape the neighborhood, adding thousands of new housing units, hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space and millions of square feet of retail. The concept is to make University Park a place where people can live, work and play. The group behind these plans, University Park Alliance, recognizes the challenge of rejuvenating the core of a post-industrial Rust Belt city, but is steadfast in its efforts. It’s already broken ground on a handful of projects with the goal that, over the next few years, University Park will turn into a completely different neighborhood, with emphasis on “neighborhood.”
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.