If you’ve been downtown lately, you’ve probably noticed—it’s in full bloom! Planters everywhere are teeming with flowers, the North High Parklet and Butterfly Waystation are abuzz with pollinators, and more than a hundred hanging baskets with sunrise-colored blooms are hovering above Main Street’s sidewalks. From the METRO Transit Center to the Northside Green, downtown Akron is beautiful.
You may be wondering: How and when and by whom did this happen?!
Since 2019, Downtown Akron Partnership has been working with community volunteers from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company to beautify downtown. These volunteers come to us during their annual Global Week of Volunteering, a time during which Goodyear employees work to make a positive impact in communities around the world (including, of course, their home base of Akron!).
During the first couple weeks of June, Goodyear volunteers help us fill downtown’s planters with flowers, hang baskets on hooks and boxes on fences, pull weeds from in-ground beds, touch up painted murals, and more.
In 2018, DAP sunsetted a long-standing Adopt-a-Planter program and replaced it with a consensus-driven, stakeholder-led, sustainability-centered approach to beautification. This ensures that downtown players are working in collaboration to come up with a system for beautifying the neighborhood that is well thought out and cohesive.
This year, we focused on adding more planters—thanks to the wrap-up of Main Street construction—planting more native perennials, and making the full switch to self-watering containers instead of less eco-friendly concrete ones. In total, we filled 89 self-watering planters, installed 42 flower boxes, hung 104 baskets, and maintained eight in-ground beds. We also freshened up the colorful paint on the stairs in Lock 2, all in the span of about a week.
Here’s a recap of each day of beautification.
Day 1: Cycle Track & Main Street
The first day we had help from Goodyear volunteers, we filled all the planters along Main Street, including the ones that partition the Cycle Track from the street in the southern area of downtown. One volunteer even brought some additional helping hands with her. With the extra help, the planting went quickly enough that there was time to weed some nearby in-ground beds. The kiddos made it very clear that—and this is a direct quote—they “love pulling weeds!”
Day 2: In-Ground Bed Maintenance & North High Parklet
The second day of beautification was focused on pulling weeds from in-ground beds and planting flowers and vines in the North High Parklet, a social structure with benches, tables, and umbrellas on North High Street. Unfortunately, the kids who “love pulling weeds” were not present for this day’s weed removal, but our volunteers still cheerfully got the job done and created some lovely public spaces!
Day 3: Installing Planter Boxes, Planting Mill, High & Broadway Streets, and Maintaining the Butterfly Waystation
On this balmy morning, volunteers worked to plant flowers in containers along Mill, High, and Broadway Streets, while others headed to the METRO Transit Center to install baskets along their fence. Later in the day, on the other end of downtown, volunteers got on their hands and knees to meticulously pull weeds from the beds on the Northside Green and plant new native perennials in their place. The results are stunning.
Day 4: Lock 2 Step Painting
This project got postponed from its originally scheduled day that ended up being rainy—not quite ideal conditions for allowing paint to dry. These steps were originally painted in 2017 when Lock 2 got a space lift as part of an Akron Civic Commons project that included adding cafe tables, games, outdoor lighting, and other aesthetic touches. Although the rain date for this project only allowed for half the planned time to be spent on it, our volunteers rallied and got the job done.
The Previous Week: Hanging Baskets
In the days before Goodyear employees generously volunteered their time to help us with downtown beautification, the downtown Ambassadors and DAP staff hung more than 100 flower baskets on poles stretching the length of Main Street downtown. It was the perfect prelude to the following week.
A Big Thanks
We’re grateful to Goodyear for connecting us with volunteers during their Global Week of Volunteering, to Lock 3 and the City of Akron for providing additional support, to our Ambassadors for all they do on a daily basis to keep downtown beautiful, to Keep Akron Beautiful and our other thought partners for working together to come up with a cohesive, sustainable plan for downtown beautification, and to the Corbin Foundation for making all this possible.