When presented with a directive to relocate to a new city, most people would not be overjoyed with an order to move to Akron, Ohio. Whether you are moving for work or to be near family, we can help you narrow down your list of possible neighborhoods by highlighting some you may want to avoid. We will be looking at much more than crime rates, because frankly, they are rarely the sole indicator of a neighborhood’s quality.
Instead, we will look at some factors that make some neighborhoods in Akron less desirable than others. This includes a lack of dining and shopping, poor schools, and lack of housing. No neighborhood should automatically be disregarded because of its place on this list. Instead, potential residents should use this list as a point of caution and a recommendation to do further research before committing.
Read on to learn about some of the neighborhoods in Akron that you might want to think about twice before signing a mortgage or lease, especially sight unseen.
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4 Worst Neighborhoods in Akron
In some cities, downtown is the place to be. In others, like Akron, it is not. Downtown Akron is riddled with poverty. The median home value is only $49,000, and the median income is $14,000. For contrast, the federal poverty guidelines for a household of only one person is $12,888. For a family of two, like one parent and one child, the poverty level is considered $17,420.
One of the characteristics of a bustling, livable downtown that residents flock to is walkability. Akron leaned heavily on its Rubber City past and designed a downtown for cars instead of for people on foot or bicycle. Right now, Akron is the sort of downtown that people drive into for work or a ball game and then promptly leave.
To its credit, the leaders of Akron acknowledge the need for change to the downtown and have made a conceptual plan to make modifications to make downtown more attractive, both visually and functionally. One part of the plan is to improve pedestrian sidewalks and bike lanes and narrow busy one-way streets to two lanes. Another is to significantly reduce the retail and commercial vacancy in the neighborhood.
One challenge to all this is the low population of the downtown neighborhood; less than 15,000 people live in what should be the most exciting part of the city. It is very hard to maintain restaurants and shops in a downtown area when everyone leaves at 5 pm on Friday and do not return until Monday morning.
In sum, do not automatically go under contract for a rental or purchase in downtown Akron with the idea that it is the most exciting or best part of the city to live in. Do your research and take some time to study the neighborhood to see if it is really what you want.
2. Chapel Hill
For families who prioritize housing based on the zoned school, Chapel Hill is one neighborhood to avoid. It is home to North High School. In 2017, it had the unfortunate distinction of being the 2nd-worst public school in the country. This rate was due to the very low proficiency demonstrations in English and Algebra in comparison to the state student population as a whole.
To be fair, test scores are not an indicator of an individual child’s ability to succeed at a school. They can be, however, an indication of how well the school is serving students who are not natural learners, in ideal situations, or are facing institutional challenges. North High School serves a predominantly minority population that is nearly four times greater than Ohio as a whole.
Unfortunately, these types of designations can hurt students who are competitively applying for colleges or post-secondary opportunities. Some high schools are like brand names that put a bit of a sheen on a student’s resume. Some are not.
Ohio permits privately run charter schools, and some of the companies have been kicked out of other cities. Akron’s charter schools may not be a solution for parents in Chapel Hill with concerns about their child’s education. Parents or guardians of at-risk children may want to look into Lebron James’ I Promise School in the nearby Akron neighborhood of Highland Square.
Middlebury often makes worst neighborhood lists for disappointing crime statistics, but it is on this list for something that may be even more dangerous – being a food desert. A good portion of Akron is actually considered a food desert. Middlebury’s combination of this and crime should give would-be residents pause.
Food deserts are areas that have a poverty rate of more than 20 percent and that are also at least one mile (in urban areas) from a large retail food establishment. This matters for many reasons. Those without reasonable access to a grocery store are more likely to rely on processed foods with longer shelf lives.
It also makes food expensive. Have you ever purchased a bag of chips at a gas station for twice the amount of a grocery store? Imagine this on a bigger scale for all your grocery needs. Food insecurity is further aggravated by a lack of grocery stores.
In Akron, these food deserts are a remaining consequence of redlining. Redlining is a now-illegal process. Banks refused to lend on properties in certain neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods were predominantly populated with racial and religious minorities.
4. University Park
This neighborhood suffers a bit from its neighbors. It is between Downtown and Middlebury, which both have places on this list. Those neighborhoods’ difficulties with crime and lack of accessible grocery stores are also a problem in University Park.
University Park is also less desirable to most people based on its proximity to the University of Akron. Of course, some people do not like living near a college with young adults living life on their own for the first time (read: staying out as late as they want and drinking as much as they want). The real negative impact is actually the multitude of run-down, unattractive housing that was formerly student housing.
The University created some new student housing in the last decade. The new developments drew students from packed, early 1900s housing to nicer facilities with amenities. Without student tenants, many of them failed to draw in a different clientele and have since fallen vacant. Others have been razed and will hopefully be redeveloped.
The Best Parts of Akron
When looking for a home in Akron, there are few things that you will want to look for.
First, know that the median home value in Akron is only $80,000. You should know this to better set your expectations when looking at homes. If you are moving from outside of Akron, chances are, you will get a lot more value for your money than where you are coming from.
On the other hand, there is a certain fixed cost to building a home, and you will not find many multi-million dollar luxury estates in the city.
Great Neighborhood Options in Akron
What you can find in Akron are some really great lots that give even the biggest families space to stretch out in privacy. There is really something special about a childhood spent in a backyard filled with toys and a treehouse and where you can throw a ball without fear of losing it in a neighbor’s yard. Fairlawn Heights is just such a neighborhood where you can have a house that feels like it is in the country.
Ghent has great schools and really large houses, and Firestone Park is a tiny, lovely community in itself. Many areas have space for new builds so that you can create the home of your dreams.
It is clear that there are some really strong neighborhoods in Akron, and probably some that even defy presuppositions about life in Akron in general. To focus on those neighborhoods, it can be helpful to weed out some of the more disappointing or lackluster neighborhoods.
As always, remember that any neighborhood on this list can be the perfect fit for someone with budget restrictions or specific preferences. There is no need to shame any neighborhood; instead, let’s look for areas of improvement that residents should know about before moving in.
Takeaways About Akron Neighborhoods
The neighborhoods on this list have some areas where improvement is needed to make them one of the preferred neighborhoods in Akron. That being said, people can be perfectly happy in these neighborhoods. For example, the food-desert status of Middlebury will mean nothing to someone with a dar to drive. On the other hand, it will be really important to an elderly person who can no longer drive and must walk or take a cab to the grocery store.
Some people care a lot about crime statistics, and you might find a home in a neighborhood with higher crime rates. Just be sure to compare the violent versus property crime rates. Sometimes they are lumped together, and violent crime is usually a bigger concern for most people. Property crime is often reported at higher levels in more affluent neighborhoods.
Akron does have some great neighborhoods for a good quality of life. And even in the neighborhoods that are not the best of the best have a purpose. A house can be a stepping stone to financial security. Besides, the lives lived inside the home are the most important part.