From larger community events to artistically boarded up houses painted by volunteers, we are so inspired by the work neighbors put in to better their community. Let’s take a look at just a small sampling of the great work that has happened in Middlebury and University Park over the years to get motivated for the work to come.
Hot Glass Jam – Glass Blowing Workshop and Neighborhood Social 2021
Hot Glass Jam started thanks to a grant- Neighborhood Network was able to work with The Devil Strip, a local co-op newspaper focused on culture and arts in Akron, to showcase some amazing University Park businesses. Akron Glass Works decided they didn’t want the fun to stop there and created three events over the summer of 2021 known as Hot Glass Jam – Glass Blowing Workshop and Neighborhood Social. During each event there were glass blowing demonstrations as well as neighbors were able to make their own glass flower for a fraction of the original cost. Akron Glass Works also invited Elizabeth’s Bookshop and Writing Center, Neighborhood Network, and a local neighbor with an amazing gardening ability named Barb to table at each of the events. On the last event during August, Neighborhood Network held a tie-dying booth and asked for donations to replace the Middlebury Millstone Plaque – a key issue in the Middlebury Neighborhood Plan. This event also continued in 2022, and is getting ready for 2023.
Neighborhood Reborn: Bettie and Johnston Streets
In the past year and a half we have organized 164 volunteers and multiple community organizations to participate in three rounds of our program “Neighborhood Reborn” on Bettie and Johnston Streets in the Middlebury neighborhood of Akron!
Together with the Bettie and Johnston Street neighbors’ guidance and support we completed the following:
- Assisted with eight owner-occupied exterior home repairs
- Boarded up the vacant building on the corner of Johnston and Bettie
- Provided general landscaping assistance to 29 neighbors
- Installed 17 solar-powered security lights
- Cleaned up four vacant lots and the sidewalk on Corley Street
- Planted 990 flowers
- Removed 11.68 tons of garbage and yard waste from the neighborhood
Neighborhood Network has completed thirteen impactful Neighborhood Reborn projects since June 2016. Having learned many lessons throughout those thirteen projects, we are in the process of refocusing our programming to empower and resource neighbors to lead these and similar efforts to ensure community-led solutions to neighborhood issues.
Middlebury Millstone Monument Revitalization
Part of the Middlebury Neighborhood Plan, the Middlebury Millstone Monument is a physical representation of Middlebury’s rich history. You can find the millstone at the intersection of East Market and Exchange street, right in front of Fire Station #2. The plaque reads “The site of the public square of Middlebury, the oldest part of what is now the City of Akron. Settled in 1807 by Captain Joseph Hart, Middlebury became an important milling center symbolized by this millstone. Here the first schoolhouse and town hall and Akron’s first church was organized.” Neighborhood Network took donations at events in 2021 to purchase the new plaque as well as pay a local contractor to redo the masonry the millstone sits on. This initiative was aimed at incorporating Middlebury’s history and identity into the neighborhood’s public space. At our 10th anniversary celebration in May 2022, members of the community were able to see the work done on the millstone before they took a tour of the fire station.
To coincide with the millstone renewal, artist Mac Love of ArtXLove gave the Middlebury Kids Daycare a few history honoring paintings as well. Located on Case Ave, the bright blue building now has a mural painted by children at the 2016 Better Block, as well as an art piece showcasing Middlebury’s contribution to the clay industry. On top of that, the Middlebury Millstone Monument is featured in the ArtXLove Akron On Deck 2! Check out our Facebook and Instagram for more information.
Neighborhood Network Celebrates 10 Years
In May 2022, Neighborhood Network hosted our monthly meeting at Ardmore Inc. on East Market St. There, we shared with neighbors, public officials, and stakeholders our accomplishments over the last ten years. It was an emotional night, with people recounting their favorite neighborhood memory and celebrating with a 10th birthday cake for NN. We learned more about Ardmore Inc., an organization that provides support and services for those with disabilities. We heard from some of the founding members of the NN Core Team and current members too. After we enjoyed dinner and a small presentation, we walked on East Market Street to admire the newly completed sidewalk, the masonry work done on the Middlebury Millstone Monument, and to take a tour of the Fire Station #2. We are so grateful to have been in Middlebury and University Park for over a decade, and are so glad to know so many neighbors that joined the Network back then and are still around now.
Boss Park Revitalization
In partnership with Akron Public School’s Pathways to High School Success Program and the City of Akron, Neighborhood Network Revitalized Boss Park in the University Park Neighborhood. Groups from four high schools (Kenmore/Garfield, North, East, & Buchtel) designed a plan for the revitalization of Boss Park and picked their favorite design to install. In the last few years, the students installed the design and they hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to present the renovations to the community.
As of 2021, Wild Woman Designs & Consulting has created gabion walls in the vacant lot next to the park using permaculture techniques. This will be the start of the mental health oasis, which was a big community desire in the University Park Neighborhood Plan. On top of that, Boss Park was a Top 5 finalist for a National Kubota Home Town Proud Grant!
On Saturday, October 23rd, 2021, fourteen University of Akron students and three staff members joined Neighborhood Network to participate in the annual fall Make a Difference Day. In only two hours we were able to accomplish many tasks including: laying down landscaping fabric, moved tons of mulch, cleaned out three flowerbeds and cut down invasive vegetation.
On December 1st 2021, Neighborhood Network was awarded $12,500 from our local Kubota Corporation and the Akron Tractor & Equipment Inc. to continue revitalizing Boss Park!
In 2022, Neighborhood Network won the Akron Parks Challenge for $100,000 for Boss Park! Akron Parks Collaborative as well as the Friends of Boss Park (a group of neighbors, stakeholders, teachers at Leggett CLC, staff and students at the University of Akron, business owners, and more that want to see Boss Park thrive) have been working on themes, priorities, and style for the park. In 2023, keep your eyes peeled for a chance to make big decisions about the park space.
Solar Powered Security Lights 2021
In 2020 and 2021, Neighborhood Network and the Habitat for Humanity Construction Site Supervisors have completed 431 Solar Powered Security Light Installations across Middlebury and University Park. Additionally, Neighborhood Network has distributed information on the Residential Porch Light Program, the University of Akron Undergraduate Student Government, the Habitat for Humanity of Summit County Restore, and more in ‘door drops’ around the University Park neighborhood. Funded by a Summit County Land Bank grant, the Porch Light program was a major demand in the implementation plan in the University Park Neighborhood Plan that we are glad to say we are almost done with! We hope to complete distributing our final solar lights to residents, and finish up by partnering with local businesses to get lights on their properties by the end of the year.
Artistic Board Ups
To beautify and secure dilapidated houses in the Middlebury and University Park neighborhoods, Neighborhood Network uses paint, plywood, and community volunteers to turn vacant eyesores into artistic neighborhood assets. To date we have completed 32 Artistic Board Ups in the two neighborhoods. In 2021, we are currently not doing any Artistic Board Ups but are looking for more sustainable and neighbor-led ways to have art in our neighborhoods.
Jewett Park Revitalization
The partnership between LINKS Community and Family Services, Akron Parks Collaborative, Summit County Public Health, Neighborhood Network and resident champions of Jewett / Upson streets that were interested in public space revitalization kicked off big changes for the park in 2020 and beyond. Along with the help of neighbors, LINKS received funding from the Creating Healthy Communities program of SCPH and won the Akron Parks Challenge for the park in 2021. Since then, the Friends of Jewett Park group has been meeting monthly to learn neighborhood priorities for the park as well as design, decide on, and implement all the ideas neighbors and the City of Akron are planning on for the park. Neighborhood Network has coordinated a Jewett Park Clean Up day with LINKS, SCPH, Akron Parks Collaborative, The Well CDC, and families that live near the park – to get ready for the first Jewett Park Play Day that occurred in the summer of 2021.
Learn more about the Jewett Park revitalization at their website HERE and sign up to volunteer for Build Week, August 2nd-6th 2022.
Middlebury Better Block 2016
With funding from both Knight Foundation and Jilly’s Music Room and the support, guidance and hard work of over twenty community organizations, businesses and stakeholders, Neighborhood Network facilitated the Middlebury Better Block on July 30th-31st, 2016 at the intersection of East Market, South Arlington and East Exchange Streets. The Better Block was a way to transform the intersection into a walkable, vibrant district for a weekend. Community-built installations included outdoor seating, temporary plazas, food trucks, kids’ play areas, community garden, live entertainment and improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Since the Middlebury Better Block, most of the participating organizations continue to meet monthly as part of the What’s Next Committee which was formed to address the common question “What comes next after the Better Block?”. The What’s Next Committee created The Middlebury Neighborhood Survey in 2017 and collected input from 211 residents and community stakeholders. The analysis and final report which was completed in November 2017 can be viewed HERE.
Neighborhood Walk Audit Program
Our annual Neighborhood Walk Audit program is going into its fifth year of collecting public space (streets, sidewalks, vacant spaces) data by paying residents to take a walk and observe their neighborhood! The Neighborhood Walk Audit program focuses on retrieving data from both the Middlebury and University Park neighborhoods by asking for locations of specific nuisances, the neighbor’s number rating of the street they’re assessing, and questioning their emotional feelings and logical thought while on that street. We analyze the data collected by neighbors (analysis done normally with the help of University of Akron interns) and present the top ten “priority streets” of concern in both University Park and Middlebury to the City of Akron planning staff AND utilize the sub-data when Neighborhood Network sits on planning teams like the East Market and East Exchange, Rubber City Heritage Trail or the Reimagine Metro RTA meetings. Read the most recent Walk Audit Report on our Neighborhood Plans page. We are always looking for Walk Audit Leaders – call 330-745-7734 ext. 256 to sign up!
Below are some pics from our Success Stories. To view the photo albums, click on one of the pictures below!