WARD 1 - As promised, Akron City Council Monday night passed a resolution confirming the city's continued commitment to provide for a grocery store in the Highland Square neighborhood.
Ward 1 Councilman James P. Hurley III announced last week that he would sponsor such a resolution. He also has since held one of the last of a series of several meetings to discuss the grocery store issue with residents.
The resolution is sponsored by Hurley along with Marco Sommerville, Renee Greene and Raymond W. Cox III - council representatives from nearby wards 3, 4 and 8, respectively.
"The city has long recognized that a grocery store is an important part of the neighborhood and attracts residents from Wards 1, 3, 4 and 8," Hurley said. "Council appreciates that residents are passionate about their community and that a grocery store is a viable component for a thriving neighborhood."
Residents of the West Akron neighborhood have prodded Council and the city administration to work to bring a grocery store into the newly built Highland Plaza on West Market Street. So far, some eateries and retail establishments have opened shop in the plaza, but still no grocery store operator has committed to the planned 6,400-square-foot building designed to accommodate a small market.
The city has offered several proposals to grocery operators to locate in the space, but all have been turned down either due to the size of the space, parking issues or current market conditions.
"Working in the construction industry as I do, spring is a slow time for new projects," said Hurley, a licensed electrician by trade. "The economic imbalance hasn't helped, but the need for a grocery store still exists."
The Highland Square revitalization project between the City of Akron, Albrecht Inc., First Merit Bank and the Akron-Summit County Public Library was completed in 2007. It includes three retail buildings and the new Highland Square Branch library.
Ward 8 Councilman Cox cited a study on the viability and feasibility of a neighborhood grocery store in Highland Square which concludes that once all issues are hashed out, such a venture would be profitable because demand and a ready market exists to support it.
"The assessment rated it as a low-risk venture based on the income of the people in the neighborhood and the number of people within a certain distance from the neighborhood," Cox said.
Hurley's resolution does take into account the economy and its disproportionately negative impact on retail business around the country. Still, he said it is important to let residents know Council will continue its commitment to making a grocery store a reality in the neighborhood.
"It's either put up or shut up; so we're going to put up," Hurley said. "I was asked to find out what Council would do as a whole. City Council and the mayor have made a commitment and the residents appreciate that."