Akron, city spotlight

Akron2Akron: Downtown Historic Cultural District Tour

The Akron2Akron group toured the Historic Cultural District Downtown Akron on Valentine’s Day.  Every tour is led by a neighborhood champion; someone who lives and / or works in the neighborhood and is proud to show it off. Ellen and Pete Nischt are two wonderful people who live in the cultural district downtown. Ellen is the associate director of law at the City of Akron and Pete is the executive director of the Summit County Democratic Party. Kimberly Beckett, who I like to call the downtown guru, co-led the tour and works as the Director of Business Development at the Downtown Akron Partnership. Kimberly is your go-to person for anything downtown.

Neighborhood champions, Pete and Ellen Nischt lead the tour of the historic cultural district

We started the tour at the Akron-Summit Public Library on High Street where we heard from the executive director, David Jennings and Councilman Rich Swirsky. The Main branch is an absolutely stunning building with accessible parking (free after 6pm and on weekends) and an incredible view of downtown. Not to mention, it offers a variety of activities and is a hub for residents of all walks of life. I mean really, who doesn’t love the library?

David Jennings, executive director of the Akron-Summit County Public Library shows the group the Children’s Library at the Main Branch

We exited the library on Main Street and made our way to Maiden Lane, a charming alley in the heart of the cultural district and home to many Akron gems including Blu Jazz+, Urban Eats, Musica, 3Point Restaurant and Allie. M Designs. Owners Liz and Jason of Urban Eats provided the freezing group with warm hot chocolate as we made our way upstairs to Rubber City Clothing, where you can find practically anything to help you display your Akron pride.

Maiden Lane is home to many Akron gems


It wasn’t pretty at times; the group braved the cold to tour downtown Akron’s historic cultural district


The United courtyard on Main Street is open to the public


Blu Jazz+, owned by developer Tony Troppe is Akron’s newest and most popular jazz club

Next we popped into The Nightlight, Akron’s newest independent cinema, where we met owner Steve Felix and heard about his vision with the theater. The Nighlight has helped to make downtown a destination, attracting thousands of movie goers since opening last July.

The iconic Dance sign at Musica on Maiden Lane


Urban Eats is a cozy cafe on Maiden Lane
Musica hosts many of Akron’s arts events including Crafty Mart and the Big Love Fest


Jason, owner of Urban Eats smiles the warmest smile!
Liz, owner of Urban Eats graciously offers the group hot chocolate


The prettiest little corner at Urban Eats


Councilman Rich Swirsky chats with the owner of Rubber City Clothing


Customers can create their own tee at Rubber City Clothing

One of my favorite stops had to be the Western Fruit Basket. I drive past this place every single day and never knew what it was, let alone that it was even open. This quaint Greek cafe has a full menu including some of the best gyros and pastries in town.

Western Fruit Basket & Pastries on West Market Street offers delicious Greek cuisine


Baklava at Western Fruit Basket

The wind was truly unkind on the last stretch of the tour as we made our way from the Western Fruit Basket to Greystone Hall where we toured the Actors’ Summit Theater, one of Akron’s most successful theater groups.  Greystone is such a beautiful building with lots of history. It’s available for special event and meeting rentals.

Pete and Ellen share some fun facts about Akron’s history


Cristina and Richelle brave the cold!

We wrapped up the tour at Nuevo restaurant. Here, we first made sure everyone didn’t have frost bite and then heard from developer Tony Troppe, a man with incredible vision who is responsible for many of the revitalization efforts in the downtown area.

Tony Troppe redeveloped this building on the corner of Mill and High. The building now houses Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar and Leadership Akron’s offices
I had a little time to kill before people arrived for the tour

Since it was Valentine’s Day, we asked our guests to share a picture of something they loved in the historic district using the #LoveyourCity tag to win a gift card. Be sure to browse through some of the photos posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday.

Downtown Akron retail maps are freshly printed and ready for pick up at the Downtown Akron Partnership

I was truly touched by the fact that nearly 40 people showed up despite the bitter cold temperatures and wind. Not only that, about half of those in attendance were new to the tours, which is really a great thing. A huge thank you to everyone who braved the cold, to the Knight Foundation for supporting this tour, and a mega thank you to the partners who hosted us.

Jason Segedy will lead the next tour of  Wallhaven on March 21, 2015. Registration will become available on the Akron2Akron social media pages soon (@akron2akron). 

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