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University of Akron and its city form new group to advance cooperation

A bicyclist crosses E. Exchange St. near InfoCision Stadium in Akron. Photo by Gus Chan.

Officials from the city of Akron and the University of Akron are coming together more formally in an attempt to figure out ways to advance “cooperation, support, and mutual growth” between the two institutions.

“The City and the University are intertwined at many levels and the future of our region depends on each of us thriving as we move forward,” Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan said in a release issued Wednesday, Jan. 26. “Having this working group in place will help ensure that we coordinate our efforts.”

A group of 13 senior university and city leaders, including Horrigan and UA president Gary Miller, plan to initially meet biweekly to discuss “topics and issues of mutual benefit and coordinate joint activities,” per the release.

The first listed item on an outline of topics the group may consider is safety, including in the areas directly off-campus.

It’s an issue that’s especially topical after Maya Noelle McFetridge, 18 and a first-year student at UA, and Alexander Beasley, 25, died after being shot as a September 2021 party near campus dispersed.

Last month, Open Campus and Crain’s Cleveland Business published a detailed look at the so-called “town-gown relationship” in Akron, zeroing in how far does — and should — a university’s influence extend off-campus, including when it comes to the safety of students and nearby residents.

This new task force plans to discuss other subjects, too. Conversations around economic development could look at how some university properties may align with the city’s development efforts as well as “city economic development initiatives where UA might be helpful,” officials said.

Conversations around planning and zoning are on the table, too, including examining current guidelines in two neighborhoods near campus known as South of Exchange and Middlebury. Officials also said they may consider ways to “modify/adjust those guidelines to enhance those neighborhoods.”

“There already is a good working relationship between UA and the City but having this group in place will enable us to be even more strategic and productive,” university president Miller said in the release.

Wednesday’s news release didn’t note when the group plans to hold its first meeting.

Amy Morona covers higher education for Crain’s Cleveland Business, in partnership with Open Campus.

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