Venues Aim to Bring Community Together in Historic Location
by Brittany Nader
The spirit of community is alive and well here in the Rubber City, and when compared to towns adjacent or relative in size, Akron has a certain characteristic that sets it apart from the rest. Community pride is thriving in this Northeast Ohio city, and the amount of support between various communities distinguishes it from other regions. Officials and developers are taking note of this desire for connectedness, and on the east side of town, an iconic location is set to bring the city together in an environment where they can thrive professionally, artistically and personally. The East End project has been established to redevelop a historic Akron landmark, turning it into a campus of sorts that welcomes the general public and breathes new life into a segment of the city that has traditionally been removed from the entertainment regions on the north and west sides of town.
This project is modernizing the former Goodyear campus, which was used for corporate meetings and recreational activities reserved for the company’s employees and their families. Other members of the community previously could not get into this exclusive space, but after a new headquarters location was chosen for the tire and rubber company, a plan was set in motion to open up this massive location to the entire city, reutilizing its square footage to establish a live, work, play environment that brings people together. One of the most impressive components of this mix-use space is the Goodyear Theater, which dates back to 1919 and is distinguished by its sloped ceilings and rolling door between its stage and the attached gymnasium, Goodyear Hall. Just as the entire building will be transformed to connect members of the community together, these two venues will share a connectedness that will allow both halls to open up and become one massive entertainment venue.
Carol Smith, vice president of IRG Realty Advisors, has been involved with the Goodyear redevelopment project since 2007. Smith and her team wanted to ensure the former corporate headquarters remained rooted in Akron and maintained much of its original historic attributes, such as the large Goodyear signs on the building’s exterior and original woodwork found across the first level of the building and the theater. Smith says $35 million were spent on East End renovations, adding new electrical, heating, cooling and plumbing, as well as windows and floor systems in the building’s residential units. Panels were installed to absorb sound coming from the Goodyear Theater and Hall to make sure tenants will not be disturbed during events.
“The venues offer something that isn’t in the market today,” Smith says. “The theater’s seating capacity — which seats 1,458 — and the investment in sound and lighting offers a different type of venue from what you see anywhere else in the community.”
The Goodyear Theater celebrated its opening in April, bringing in big-name headlining acts like The Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Gavin DeGraw and Josh Turner, and is marked by its more intimate environment and focus on high-quality production. The Goodyear Hall portion was traditionally used by the company’s employees as a gymnasium, and it will be modernized to house concerts and other recreational performances with a large amount of floor space to hold thousands more attendees. The hall is housed in an area that contains 17,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of former bank space. All of this available footage will eventually be used for restaurants and storefronts, creating an entirely contained shopping, dining and entertainment district that allows event attendees to grab a bite or drink before the show without having to drive all around the city.
“You could rent an apartment in Goodyear Hall and really never have to go outside,” Smith says. “There’s an underground tunnel residents can walk through and go work in their office, then go to a restaurant and then a concert. It’s very contained and very easy to get from one place to another.”
The building already houses tenants in its redeveloped apartments, and Smith explains they are a mixed group of various ages and professions. She says the residents have been vital in giving her team feedback on events, and her booking and promotional partners have established enough variety in the types of entertainment that it will cover the interests of the wide range of tenants occupying the building, as well as the outside community.
The Elevation Group, based in Cleveland, is in charge of entertainment booking, and as the company’s goals expand, they may schedule more comedy acts and performance art in both the hall and theater. Along with national performers, local musicians like Red Sun Rising will hit the theater’s stage in upcoming months. The goal is to book at least 150 concerts per year, and Smith says the developers plan to fill out the rest of the building with more establishments that embody the live, work, play environment they are working to create. Though walkthroughs of the entire development are not open for the public, she conducts private tours for anyone interested in opening up a retail shop or restaurant and can be contacted at email@example.com to set up an appointment.
The Goodyear Theater will host the following concerts this summer:
Jason Isbell, Hiss Golden Messenger on June 4 at 8 pm
Dawes on July 20 at 8 pm
The Australian Pink Floyd Show on Aug. 11 at 8 pm
3 Doors Down, Pop Evil, Red Sun Rising on Aug. 28, 8 pm