Council pauses Bridgestone Firestone plan to address neighborhood concerns

November 19, 2008

Ward 7 – Akron City Council will take another look at plans to build a new Bridgestone Firestone technical center in Firestone Park after hearing opposition to the urban renewal and redevelopment plan needed to move the project forward.

Council held a public hearing last night on an ordinance accepting the eligibility report for the South Main-Wilbeth Urban Renewal Area and approving the South Main-Wilbeth Urban Renewal and Firestone Park Redevelopment Area Plan. Six out of seven residents who testified at the hearing spoke in opposition to the determination that the area was blighted, and expressed concerns that their businesses or homes would be acquired through eminent domain.

Eminent domain under Ohio law allows government to acquire property in blighted areas for neighborhood redevelopment and renewal projects.

The eligibility report concluded that 145 parcels or 72 percent of the 390 acres targeted for redevelopment were blighted, and therefore eligible for redevelopment activities, including zoning changes to allow the construction of the proposed Bridgestone research and technical center, expansion of retail areas, and expanded parking near Firestone Stadium.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Tina Merlitti called for further discussions with residents and business owners on the issues raised at the hearing, and offered her home telephone number to those who wished to schedule a meeting.

Merlitti was part of a team of local and state officials assembled to offer proposals to Bridgestone Firestone to convince the company to keep its technical center in Akron. She and city officials also gave presentations about their proposal to the tire maker to residents at various ward meetings throughout the city.