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Mayflower Manor poised for redevelopment into senior subsidized housing

November 27, 2018

Mayflower Manor poised for redevelopment into senior subsidized housing

AKRON, Ohio - Akron City Council is expected next week to approve tax-increment financing for redevelopment of the Mayflower Manor, once one of Akron’s most celebrated structures.

Upon passage of the legislation, the city plans to acquire the lease for the 16-story, 233-room hotel-turned-apartments at 263 South Main St. from Mayflower Manor Apartments LLC and transfer it to developer Mayflower Manor Apartments Ohio LP.

Under the plan, the Mayflower will continue offering subsidized housing, but be geared for seniors over 55-years old.

The development company, which paid $6.6 million for the property, will benefit from Akron’s 15-year residential tax abatement program. The company has said it plans to invest $10 million in the project, which will include creating community spaces and a fitness area.

The stores on the ground floor also will be redeveloped. A social coordinator is expected to be on staff, the developer said in March.

According to Akron’s Capital Planning Manager Helen Tomic, rent would be dictated by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations, which limit rents to 30 percent of the resident’s income.

Work is expected to begin in one year, and take at least a year, because existing residents won’t be displaced during the project, said City Chief of Staff James Hardy.

Tomic told City Council’s Planning Committee the units will be renovated one by one. Tenants will be asked to leave for the day, and will return home to a new kitchen, new floors and newly painted walls.

Residents who meet the HUD criteria will be able to rent the renovated units as existing tenants move out or are evicted, Hardy said. The city plans to monitor the eviction rate to ensure the building owner complies with the terms of the agreement.

The Mayflower Manor is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the South Main Street Historic District. The development company has said it plans to restore the historical character of the building inside and out.

That includes keeping the phone booth in the hotel lobby from which Bill W. is said to have made the now famous call to Dr. Robert Smith, aka “Dr. Bob,” which led to the launch of Alcoholics Anonymous. Hundreds of people each year visit the Mayflower in June during Akron’s Founder’s Day weekend.

Redeveloping the building aligns with the Akron Vision & Redevelopment Plan to revitalize downtown. During public meetings on the plan, residents consistently communicated that they want more downtown housing.

In 2013, the city proposed a controversial deal to buy the property for renovation with the help of a $14.5 million HUD loan. The deal would have required relocating roughly 230 tenants to HUD-approved housing and turning the hotel into offices and housing.

The project was estimated to cost more than $38 million and generate nearly 300 jobs. The project lost momentum after the abrupt resignation of then-mayor Don Plusquellic, who had championed the project as vital to the vibrancy of the downtown business district.

When the original deal was presented to the previous city administration, City Council Vice President Jeff Fusco said he worked with the existing building owner to ensure the Mayflower residents were supported. Many are veterans or seniors who have lived there for years, and who have said they favor the location, in part, because it’s on the bus line.

“It’s time for a new owner and new life and a new beginning for the Mayflower,” Fusco said.

“I’m hoping some positive steps are in store for people who live there and for downtown Akron.”

Mayor Dan Horrigan supports continued use of the Mayflower for subsidized housing, Hardy said.

“All of us were really happy the community didn’t push back,” he said. “Downtown needs to be for everyone.”

The Mayflower opened in 1931 to serve business people visiting the city. Akron was a booming manufacturing town, but lacked proper accommodations for visiting executives, according to a news report on the opening. The story called the hotel a “monument to civic energy and cooperation,” and reported that several local businessmen and bankers had come together to create a board of directors and see the hotel built.

The hotel included banquet and convention space, and was equipped with contemporary HVAC, fire protection, elevator and phone systems. The ground floor retail area contained a dress showroom and a hat store, both owned by women.

The day-long celebration was attended by executives from around the country, who flew into Cleveland and then were flown to the Akron Airport by Firestone’s tri-motored Ford, known as the “Tin Goose.”

Planes and other airships flew over dropping roses onto the Mayflower’s roof, then known as the “Zeppelin Observation Roof.” The hotel created a nearly 50-page booklet titled, “The Official Souvenir of the Opening of the Mayflower Hotel,” which included the hotel newsletter, “Fore and Aft of Mayflower Hotel.”

The booklet, attached below, includes drawings of the hotel, from kitchens to dance halls and the main ballroom. Also included are portraits of the directors of each service area within the hotel and a listing of all contractors involved, many from Akron, along with photos of the construction progress.

Opening of the Mayflower Hotel 1931 (PDF) Opening of the Mayflower Hotel 1931 (Text)

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