AKRON—The lights are back on at the former Goodyear Hall in Akron—and may even snap on and off more at night than in the past.
That's because people are living in the six-story building at 1220 East Market St. in Akron, which has been repurposed from former offices to the East End Residences. The apartment building is the second project in Downey, Calif.-based Industrial Realty Group's massive remake of the former corporate headquarters of Goodyear. The first addition was a Hilton Garden Inn that opened in 2014 on East Market, a year after IRG finished a new global headquarters for the tire maker at 200 Innovation Way.
Although both the apartments and hotel are multimillion-dollar projects, they are appetizers before the main course. On the south side of East Market from Goodyear Hall are four more buildings with a total of 1.4 million square feet of space that is waiting to be reinvented and repopulated in what is forecast as a $167 million development.
However, the residential aspect of the development is the most trailblazing part of the project. Goodyear's stomping grounds for the past century are primarily a business environment for the rubber maker and others. Single-family homes in the nearby Goodyear Heights neighborhood were developed to house workers at the company's former tire and rubber plants. There's been no residential project of scale there in decades. The plethora of student housing and construction the past half-decade in downtown Akron are blocks away in the city's traditional business district.
Stuart Lichter, IRG CEO, said the lack of new housing was striking as his team studied the area.
“You have all these people working there, but no one has built residentially there for years. So do it,” Lichter said in a recent phone interview.
The idea has evolved so the East End—the all-encompassing name for the Goodyear complex makeover—incorporates the almost-commonplace mantra nationally for redevelopment: a place to live, work and play.
A combination of factors led to making Goodyear Hall, which dates from 1918, into the residential component.
Lichter said the floors were the right size to create a hallway lined with apartments. The building also incorporates elements that will allow the structure to become a mixed-use project in its own right. A white-columned former bank at one end of the building may serve as a restaurant. Facilities that once served plant workers can be repurposed into amenities for tenants and house businesses serving the community, from retailers to a 1,500-seat theater.
Walk through the four floors of apartments, and there is no clue they were formerly office space.
Carol Smith, IRG vice president, said the floors were “cubicles wall to wall,” so they gave IRG a blank slate with which to work. Inside the suites, the massive windows offer wide views of the city. There are 30 different designs of suites arranged in one-, two- and three-bedroom formats.
The apartments, which opened in April, are 74 percent rented, Smith said, and one-bedrooms have leased faster than the larger, more expensive two- and three-bedroom units. If the project were being redesigned today, the developer would boost the number of one-bedrooms, she said.
A diverse mix
However, when East End was in the planning stages, residents of the Goodyear Heights neighborhood worried about East End Residences becoming additional housing for University of Akron students. As a solution, IRG added many two- and three-bedrooms to the mix.
Today, the building has a handful of students, according to Jacqueline Vari, East End property manager, but is primarily home to people working at nearby hospitals, businesses and Goodyear.
“We wound up with a wide range of age groups and backgrounds,” she said, “with residents who are 20, and the oldest is 70.”
She said the diversity of tenants has enriched her culinary experience; residents have shared with her everything from Middle Eastern tea cakes to Turkish tea.
Among the tenants are Dannette Cardwell and her husband Michael Cardwell, who moved in last summer from Bloomington, Ill., when he took a job nearby at Summa Health System. Dannette Cardwell said the couple has houses in other locations but wanted something easier to maintain than another single-family home. Her daughter found East End Residences for them on the Internet.
“It's new. And it's convenient,” Caldwell said, and noted she likes the cleanliness of the fitness center — all 3,000 square feet of it. The couple wanted to be close to the hospital, especially for the winter, because her husband gets called out at night frequently in his work as a maternal and fetal specialist.
The former Goodyear headquarters may also spawn additional housing. Lichter said portions of at least another two of five buildings in the complex may be converted to apartments.
Smith said one of the buildings on the opposite side of East Market could accommodate housing on two upper floors and another building south of East Market could go residential. A key building across East Market is dedicated to office use because it has massive floors of 1.5 acres in size. Smith said floors of such size are desirable for large tenants who want to be on one floor. Similarly, she said, such floors are too large to efficiently repurpose as apartment suites.
Long-term, Smith said, IRG hopes the complex can be catalytic in getting other former industrial buildings in the neighborhood converted to housing.
A plan for place-making
Completing the menu at Goodyear Hall alone, however, will take some other property types besides multifamily.
A second floor is being retained for office use. First-floor space in the building will be offered for retail use, such as a coffee shop. Plans call for the width of East Market to be reduced through the East End project to add more on-street parking and create an environment friendlier to pedestrians and retailers.
The former headquarters complex is sprawling—some 400 acres in all—so it also includes an 80-acre parcel that could house build-to-suite structures for additional companies.
IRG's long-term plan for place-making suits the city plan for the area, said Samuel DeShazior, Akron deputy mayor for economic development.
“East End lends itself to creative living spaces,” DeShazior said. “If you create a market for yourself (with housing), other things will occur, such as grocers and entertainment and services so people don't have to leave the area on a daily basis.”
When Vari started managing East End Residences three months ago, she worried about how she would meet the many residents who had already moved in. Her solution: She makes it a point to be near the entrances at the end of the day.
Many of the residents work nearby, she said, so close they walk to and from work, including at Goodyear's current headquarters.