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Akron symbolizes rebirth of downtowns

Not long ago, cities like Akron, Ohio, were given up for dead. Crime was on the rise. Local industry on the decline. Downtowns resembled a ghost town.

Those days are now gone. "We have fought through some tough, tough times," says Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic.

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It's more fun heading cities when their treasuries are flush and downtowns are vibrant - from Cleveland's Warehouse section to Denver's LoDo (Lower Downtown).

"The last few years have been tremendous for most of the mayors in this room," said New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, one of the many leaders attending the annual US Conference of Mayors meeting here."

The mayors were covering a variety of topics, including economic development, schools, transportation, regional growth, gun violence, and power shortages forecast for the summer. Their main focus, though, was how to ensure that the good times continue.

In few places has the transition from dying urban core to growing city center been as dramatic as in Akron. The once-decaying downtown is home to a new convention center, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and a new minor league baseball stadium. Eight restaurants have opened recently.

Akron also showed it was possible to adapt from the Rust Belt to the New Economy. While rubber manufacturing left Akron, Mr. Plusquellic says, the city retained some of the nation's best minds in the development of plastics and related materials. Now, due in large part to researchers at the University of Akron, the city has become a hub for research and development in polymers and plastics.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society