There’s a lot to be said for small city living. Small cities offer some perks of bigger cities, like access to pleasant parks, dependable public transportation, and cultural activities such as museums and theaters.
But while a bustling metropolis can leave you feeling cold and overwhelmed, a smaller city can give you a sense of warmth and community similar to what you have in a town. Small towns offer the best of both worlds.
Small cities in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. are among the latest getting increased attention from home-seekers. While long thought of as less-than-ideal due to poor job prospects, pollution, bad weather, and other negatives, many of these cities are rising up and showing signs of life again.
Urban renewal projects, environmental rehabilitation, and re-development of previously depressed areas all point to a renaissance for this region of the country. Akron, Ohio, is on this list of recently revitalized Great Lakes cities hoping to welcome new residents.
Are you thinking of moving to northeastern Ohio? Do you have your sights on the city of Akron or its surrounding areas? This article will walk you through some facts about Akron and the pros and cons of making your home there.
The Pros of Akron, Ohio
1. Lots to Do
As the 5th largest city in Ohio, Akron has many points of interest and events to keep you entertained throughout the year. Some highlights include:
The Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens is a 65-room Tudor-style mansion and is open to the public for tours. The Seiberling family, who were the co-founders of the Goodyear Tire Company, built the house in 1915. Stroll around the lush historic English gardens in the summer and imagine yourself as a well-to-do socialite with all the time in the world.
Lock 3 in downtown is Akron’s community event spot. This all-purpose venue hosts concerts, shows, cultural events, expos, even activities such as bumper car rides and ice skating. There’s always something to do at Lock 3, whether you’re looking for a family activity or a date night.
The Akron Art Museum is housed in an impressive building designed by the Viennese architecture firm Coop Himmelblau (translated sky-blue). Inside you’ll find over 7,000 objects created by artists old and new. With so much to see, this wonderful museum offers an amazing educational and inspirational experience for people of all ages.
These are just a few of the locations and events worth seeing and doing in the Akron area. There is something for everyone.
2. Low Home Prices
Many areas in and around Akron are still suffering the effects of economic struggle. More about this in the “cons” section. But for now, let’s look at the “pro” side of the coin. Akron’s median house price of 84k makes buying a home there very accessible. Research areas and weigh your options to find the best deal that suits your needs.
At 57.9% white, 30.1% African American and 4.2% Asian, Akron, Ohio earned a 70 out of 100 diversity score. There’s a strong history of African American residents in Akron. The city is also home to many ethnic communities with long histories in the region, including Italians, Chinese, and Germans. In recent years, the city has taken active steps toward racial diversity, equity, and inclusion.
4. Historical Significance
Akron has a rich history. It is the birthplace of some notable businesses and movements.
The most recognizable company to come out of Akron is Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Goodyear was founded in Akron in 1910 and became one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world. The company still employs around 3,000 people in the Akron area. Akron was also the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous and the site of several notable incidents of civil unrest and social justice milestones.
5. Cost of Living
In addition to low house prices, Akron is also one of the least expensive overall cities in the nation. Most items like food, transportation, and rent cost below the national average. This is good news for frugal people looking to settle in a small city. You can enjoy an economic living while taking advantage of all that Akron offers.
6. Great Neighborhoods
Despite the difficulties the city has faced in some neighborhoods, we don’t need to paint all of Akron with the same broad brush. There are some lovely neighborhoods, from suburbs with their quiet blocks and manicured lawns to bustling streets around the city close to restaurants and corner stores. There are many things to explore and people to meet in Akron.
Some neighborhoods that made the most recent Best of Akron List are North Hill, Goodyear Heights, and Highland Square.
7. Public Transportation
Not everyone has a car. But even those who do sometimes prefer to use the bus for convenience or environmental reasons. That’s why having a user-friendly public transportation system is important in any city.
It’s not uncommon for small cities to drop the ball on public transport. Fortunately, the Akron Metro Bus system provides excellent service in and around the city. At only $1.25 per ride, you can get to wherever you want to go on time and in air-conditioned comfort.
8. Parks and Nature
Outdoor life is one of the top priorities for active people when choosing a new city. Besides some lovely neighborhood parks, Akron also boasts the FA Seiberling Nature Realm, an extensive park featuring three separate walk/bike trails, picnic areas, and a wide variety of trees, plants, and wildlife.
You can also take a trip to nearby Portage Lakes State Park where boating, water-skiing, and canoeing are on the menu all summer long.
9. Family-Friendly Atmosphere
Akron reflects many aspects of midwestern hospitality and a conventional small city way of life. There are many programs and events aimed at families with children. Immerse your kids in art at the Akron Children’s Museum. Is one of your kids obsessed with trains? They’d love a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
Most kids won’t say no to a day at the Akron Zoo. In addition to activities and events, many people find Akron is a laid-back city to live in, compared to some other places in the Midwest. People in Akron are accepting of folks from various types of family structures, backgrounds, and walks of life.
10. Open for Business
Akron is amid a revitalization effort that includes encouraging new businesses to make their home there. Whether you’re an entrepreneur just starting out, an established business owner who wants to move, or someone looking for a new job in one of Akron’s key industries, the city will welcome you and help you achieve your goals.
Related: Advantages of Living in Ohio
The Cons of Akron, Ohio
11. High Crime Rates
Overall, Akron is a moderately safe city. Like many cities, there are more crime-prone areas of Akron, so you will want to look carefully at statistics for each area before proceeding to buy property there. Most of the crimes happen in the inner city itself, while the surrounding areas remain relatively safe places to live.
Akron comes in 47th on the list of America’s most dangerous cities. News of rising violent crimes and property crime during the early days of the covid-19 pandemic scared many people off of looking for homes in and around Akron.
Understandably, people do not feel comfortable moving to a dangerous city, and there’s no sugar-coating the fact that Akron has had its issues with crime. However, the latest statistics for 2021 and early 2022 show a downward trend in the rates of violent crime.
Law enforcement agencies have been working hard to address the crime issues, and urban revitalization is slowly but surely bringing hope that Akron can be a safe, thriving city.
12. Struggling School Districts
For many families with children, the quality of the local school district is a make-or-break factor when shopping for a new home. This can pose a challenge if you’re looking to settle in the city of Akron.
The Akron City School District is in the bottom 50% in Ohio with only 39% math proficiency and 42% reading proficiency. These troubling numbers, along with problems of low attendance and school violence, have earned the district a test ranking of only 3/10 and have made it the focus of calls for change.
But let’s look on the bright side: a low student-teacher ratio and a recent uptick in graduation rates are among the good points of this district, but for many parents, this isn’t enough. Keep in mind that moving to the Akron area doesn’t mean your kids have to attend a poorly rated school. There are excellent schools in Akron and surrounding areas, for example, Akron Early College High School, Bath Elementary School, and Revere Middle School.
13. Traffic and Parking
Life in and around a city also brings the daily headache of dealing with traffic. Akron isn’t any worse than similar cities of its size, but this is still something to consider, especially if you are moving there from a smaller town or rural area. Parking in the downtown area can be pricey and inconvenient as well.
14. Poverty and Rundown Neighborhoods
Like many cities in this region of the United States, Akron has struggled with the effects of rising poverty rates over the decades. In generations past, these cities were major centers for manufacturing and trade, but as industries went abroad and companies folded or moved elsewhere, millions were left behind with no jobs and little recourse.
This began the downward spiral in cities like Akron, where the poverty rate now sits at around 24.1%. Compared to the state average of 14.8%, that number is daunting. Poverty is evident in some areas of Akron, with poorly maintained buildings and abandoned houses being a common sight.
If you’re looking to buy real estate in and around Akron and run into a home that seems too inexpensive to be true, chances are it’s in one one of the city’s more struggling areas, and might be in some serious disrepair. Always do your research to ensure you’re getting what you want out of your real estate deal.
Akron is situated in what’s commonly been called the Rust Belt. This means cold winters with plenty of snow and ice, topped off by late, wet, and rainy springs.
The summers in Akron can be hot and humid, too. While Akron isn’t as notorious for its miserable winters as some Great Lakes cities (we’re looking at you, Buffalo!), it’s not by any means a tropical paradise. So if you’re more inclined to enjoy warmer temps and abundant sun, look into a city further south in the state.
Whether you’re considering moving there for work, for University, or family reasons, Akron can be an excellent place to live if you get to know the area. It may take some investigative work to figure out your best bet for settling down in Akron.
The best way to get to know the areas in and around Akron is to visit the city. Look around, and check out its neighborhoods to get a feel for the people, the amenities, and the vibe.
While doing your research and comparison-shopping for real estate is a great way of getting your head around the local market, you will have better results if you speak with a realtor who knows the Akron area and can help guide you in your search. Thanks for reading, and best of luck!