AKRON, Ohio — By fall 2024, Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron is planned to look and feel more like a true central park than it does today.
Phase I of the Lock 3 Vision Plan begins this month, transforming the city-owned community gathering space into a mobility friendly destination with shade trees, different styles of seating, performance spaces and several other amenities.
To celebrate the launch of the project, estimated at $17 million, the community is invited to a groundbreaking, set for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Lock 3 Park, 200 S. Main St.
The Lock 3 Vision Plan is a component of the Akron Civic Commons project, which the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition has led since 2016, said Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition CEO Dan Rice.
Akron Civic Commons aims to revitalize and connect public spaces, focusing on three miles of the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail, including Lock 3 and the smaller Locks 2 and Lock 4, which have already undergone significant transformation.
The park’s renovation also dovetails with Akron’s Main Street Corridor Project, a roughly $45 million project to update 1.4 miles of roads and walkways through the heart of the city, which was completed in late 2021.
Currently, Lock 3 park is primarily a large field set back off South Main Street in the heart of downtown, surrounded by the Main Street project’s new amenities.
The park is well attended, with a temporary stage for live concerts and festivals in warmer weather and ice-skating, ice-bumper cars and holiday events in cold months. Since it opened in 2003, Lock 3 has attracted more than 2 million people, according to the city.
But for park-goers who want to enjoy the Ohio & Erie Canal or Towpath Trail around the park’s border or have a picnic in shade on a summer day, the park offers little in the way of shade or seating.
To shape the park’s makeover, the Lock 3 Vision Plan enlisted input from Akronites and downtown businesses through online surveys and open-house events, Rice said.
“We've gotten a lot of great positive feedback and people are really excited because Lock 3 is very much a popular gathering space,” Rice said. “What we've heard loud and clear from people is they want to be able to have it as a great facility all year round, not just for festivals and concerts.”
The designs developed for Lock 3 by Philadelphia-based urban-design company OLIN, are intentionally flexible to allow the park to be configured to serve different-size crowds, Rice said. Phase II of the Lock 3 Vision Plan will integrate Locks 2 and 4 with the Lock 3 redevelopment.
While construction is underway at Lock 3, the city will continue to host events at locations downtown, Rice said. A website will soon be launched to keep the community apprised of the event details and construction progress.
“Downtown is open for business,” Rice said. “We want to continue to keep people coming to downtown Akron and keeping them excited about the revitalization of Lock 3 Park and build upon the momentum of the Bowery project and Main Street.”
The Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition will continue to seek funding for the Akron Civic Commons project, to construct Phase II of the Lock 2 and Lock 4 projects and create an endowment for operations and maintenance of the projects, Rice said.