Akron, Ohio, January 13, 2022 — Today, the cities of Akron and Cuyahoga Falls have announced the release of the draft Merriman Valley – Schumacher Area Master Plan Report. The report, prepared by urban planning firm Farr Associates, is the result of months of work studying the area and gathering feedback from stakeholders about their priorities and aspirations for what the area could become. You can view the full report here.
“I am incredibly pleased with the community engagement and participation that was displayed throughout the creation of the master plan,” stated Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters. “The plan maps a path forward for the Valley that balances economic and community development opportunities with the preservation of much of the natural resources that define and distinguish the area.”
The master plan proposes investments that build on and enhance the area’s unique story and assets. It lays out a vision of a vibrant, walkable area that coexists with, protects, and complements the natural beauty of its environment. In this way, it can improve the area for residents and visitors alike.
“As our communities look toward the future of the Valley, we now have a plan which provides a thoughtful, strategic vision for future development," said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This vision was crafted with input from all stakeholders and accounts for the many unique opportunities for residential and retail development in an area that is truly blessed with many natural assets."
Highlights and Recommendations of the Master Plan include:
- Proposed Land Uses and Urban Design – including creating and adopting a Form-Based zoning code – a modern code that guides the creation of neighborhoods that are more walkable and sustainable.
- Improved Transportation Systems - streets, trails, sidewalks, and river access.
- Environmental Considerations - conservation neighborhoods, habitat corridors, and riparian setbacks.
- Example Development and Redevelopment Scenarios – within the study area in both Akron and Cuyahoga Falls.
The plan takes into account several environmental considerations. It proposes the setting aside of two types of open space corridors to protect the natural assets of the area. The first are Natural Habitat Corridors that encompass the river, streams, and dry fields to create a connected regional wildlife habitat network. The second type of corridors are Scenic Byways that preserve the bucolic vistas along major thoroughfares. It also lays out guidelines for new and redeveloped housing that are designed as Conservation Neighborhoods. These neighborhoods preserve critical open space, encourage walking and biking, and allow for a range of housing types and price points.
In addition to addressing environmental considerations, the master plan envisions a 10+ year redevelopment of the commercial area surrounding the intersection of Merriman Road and North Portage Path. This redevelopment focuses on creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment while taming the existing traffic congestion. The centerpiece of the transformation is a Town Green that would provide a civic gathering space for the neighborhood. Other key projects include a new Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway station and the creation of Riverbend Park on Portage Path which would increase access to the river’s edge as the public requested.
This plan also proposes a parcel-by-parcel transformation of the intersection of Portage Trail Extension West and Northampton Road into a lower-speed, walkable, architecturally distinctive area. The small-scale retail at this node would predominantly serve nearby residents, allowing them to access some of their daily needs, such as a coffee shop or dry cleaner, by bike or on foot.
The cities engaged with the community throughout the planning process and received feedback from residents, landowners, business owners, conservation groups, and government officials. The resulting master plan attempts to reflect and incorporate the values and interests of all stakeholders. New Form-Based zoning regulations will be critical for ensuring that the walkable, sustainable, and equitable place depicted in the plan and renderings can be realized. Adoption of the master plan will provide a solid roadmap for the future of the Merriman Valley – Schumacher Area for years to come.
The cities welcome further input and comments from the public through a survey that is also available on the city websites listed above. After receiving additional feedback, the cities aim to bring zoning code changes to their respective City Councils in Spring 2022.
Additional questions and comments can be made by contacting city staff directly at the following: