AKRON, Ohio — The Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance (KNA) is working to jump-start its pre-pandemic momentum, inviting the community back to the Kenmore Boulevard business district this week.
KNA will resume First Fridays, a celebration of the neighborhood, Friday, June 4, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The popular monthly, outdoor celebration of the southwest Akron neighborhood will offer music, food and free family fun on the Boulevard. During First Fridays, businesses keep their doors open later, while free outdoor movies, craft vendors and live concerts are also planned.
Kenmore Boulevard, known for its many music and arts businesses, also has restaurants and bars, barbers and salons, retail shops, nonprofits and hobby stores. The Boulevard is one of Akron’s Great Streets Districts.
Great Streets works with neighborhood development groups like KNA to bring business and vibrancy back to 10 of the city’s small-business districts. The program offers facade-improvement grants and low-interest loans, and makes improvements to the district’s infrastructure.
KNA, a community development organization, is also deploying new new informational and directional signage featuring reimagined branding based on the neighborhood’s rich history, said KNA Executive Director Tina Boyes.
Just before the pandemic closed down communities, Kenmore Boulevard was added to the register of historic places by the National Park Service, Boyes said.
Now, KNA is seeking proposals to design, construct and install elements of a plan for Boulevard improvements, developed by Akron’s Environmental Design Group with input from residents and businesses.
The goal is to create a sense of place in the Kenmore Boulevard Historic District, Boyes said. https://www.betterkenmore.org/post/federal-designation-positions-kenmore-boulevard-for-historic-investment
“Kenmore is a fun, creative place with a lot of history,” she said. “We believe signage on Kenmore Boulevard should evoke pride in residents and reflect our fun, creative nature to the broader Akron community.”
New district pole banners, artistic threshold signage, and a gateway mural on the Manchester Road underpass over Kenmore Boulevard, are planned, she said. The signage is designed to connect neighborhood amenities to the nearby Towpath Trail and Summit Lake, as well as the Kenmore Leg of Route 224.
The signage will include new branding featuring a bright red cardinal adopted earlier this year after a city-wide design competition, she said.
The cardinal acknowledges Kenmore High School’s past as the Fighting Cardinals. The Akron Schools District recently merged Kenmore and Garfield high schools, dropping the Kenmore name and logo.
Kenmore was a town with a high school before it became part of Akron, Boyes said. Keeping the cardinal as part of the neighborhood’s identity is important to families with deep roots in the community.
“The fighting cardinal really embodied the people of this neighborhood: proud, bold and blue collar, fighting for everything they've ever had,” she said. “Our cardinal may not be the fighting cardinal, but it still embodies the spirit of our revitalization.”
“Hopefully, with the attitude that people have right now, they want to get out and see the world again, and we'll start seeing a lot more people down for this year's First Fridays,” he said. “And I do believe there's a bunch of people that are looking forward to this.”
Buntin approves of the newly designed branding and KNA’s efforts to rebrand the Boulevard, he said.
“I think this is a nice community to be involved in,” he said. Many of us business owners choose to be here because we know that this is a nice community, we know it's a nice, safe area for people to come out and shop. You can find a lot of stuff at the malls here, but we've got a lot of businesses here that you won’t find in any mall.”