‘Who owns Summit Lake’s story? And who is writing the ending?’

Summit Lake has endured years of disinvestment. Today, it’s on the upswing. But who controls the future of Summit Lake: Residents, the City of Akron, nonprofit foundations? What would working together look like?

Reporting, writing and photos by Noor Hindi

When looking out from her porch, what Shirley Finney thinks about most is snow. Thick, gleaming pockets of snow enveloping all corners of Princeton Street, where she’s lived for more than 20 years.

In these moments, Finney remembers the way the snowstorms would quiet the otherwise rambunctious streets of Summit Lake. Finney, now 72 years old, moved to the neighborhood with her family in 1963, and later bought two homes in the late 1990s.

The stairs leading up to her bedroom are lined with countless shoes, each stack representing four generations of Finneys who have resided in Summit Lake. The clutter of photo albums, plants and furniture are evidence of a home well lived in, a life animated with laughing kids, breakups with boyfriends and crucial community work for the neighborhood Finney loves.

In Summit Lake, Finney says, “We hold each other as family.” Princeton Street “has held on through every storm,” every “promise not kept.” If there’s defensiveness in her voice, it’s coming from a place of deep love for Summit Lake and a distrust of outsiders.

Summit Lake, she’ll tell you, is the “mother of Akron that the city gutted out like a hysterectomy.”  

“What I want for Summit Lake is for the city of Akron to take pride in the south side of Akron so the south side of Akron and Summit Lake can take pride in the city of Akron. You owe us. We’re the last at the table, but you owe us,” she says.

Her suspicion of outsiders, of systems and of “white men in suits,” is not uncommon of Summit Lake residents and community leaders. In dozens of interviews The Devil Strip conducted in the neighborhood in 2020, time and time again, residents relayed a feeling of being “forgotten,” of “a legacy of things done to and not with,” and of living in a neighborhood which the City of Akron has “turned its back on.” 

Over the years, Summit Lake has endured a loss of industry; the construction of freeways that split the community in half; urban renewal projects, both within and outside of the neighborhood, that contributed to a large amount of people settling into an overcrowded Summit Lake; and a staggering amount of dilapidated homes that were later demolished. 

Today, Summit Lake, which was once one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Akron, is now the sparsest. Those demolished homes, once energized by family barbecues and music blaring from driveways, are now blankets of grass shaded by overgrown trees.

But recent years have seen renewed energy in revitalizing the lakeshore of Summit Lake.

Over the last five years, through foundational support from the Knight Foundation, the GAR Foundation, the Akron Civic Commons project, and various other investors, $1.6 million has been invested in the lakefront of Summit Lake.  Most recently, through the Summit Lake Vision Plan, $10 million is projected to be invested in the lake. The next round of funding will be focused on adding a 35-acre park to the north shore. 

And though city leaders say the decisions they’ve made so far regarding Summit Lake have been led by residents of the neighborhood and will continue to involve residents in the future, some community members are uncertain. The City of Akron owns hundreds of lots in the neighborhood, and residents fear decisions about that land will be made without their input, to their detriment.

“Everyone seems to have the best of intentions, but many neighbors mistrust the process since the city is holding onto land and not revealing a development plan,” says Dr. Elizabeth Patterson Roe, a resident and social work professor at Malone University. “I think they’re good-hearted people, but how are they going to help the neighbors have a voice in the development process?”

In May, for example, the City of Akron announced the Mow to Own program. The program made 250 parcels of vacant land available to residents to own if they mowed those lots for six months. Despite Summit Lake having about 1,500 parcels of vacant land, no lots from Summit Lake are available to residents. 

When resident Mary O’Connor asked why Summit Lake was not included in the program, there was confusion. At points, says O’Connor, it sounded as if the city already had a plan for Summit Lake that it was waiting to unveil. At other points, it sounded as if the city was waiting to create a plan alongside residents, but the timeline was unclear. 

The lack of transparency “robs you of the desire to do anything,” O’Connor says.

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James Hardy, Akron’s Deputy Mayor for Integrated Development, says the city plans to work with residents in 2021 on a land-use plan. The plan will focus on all publicly owned vacant lots and zone them as residential, commercial or green space. The plan will be created by and for Summit Lake residents, Hardy says. Additionally, he affirmed the city’s commitment that Summit Lake “should remain a residential neighborhood.” 

“The land-use plan, once it’s done, would rezone [Summit Lake] so it fits and matches the land-use plan,” Hardy says. “That also is a protective measure against speculative development…We could take some giant leaps here to say, ‘our No. 1 goal is to build wealth for the existing residents of Summit Lake, and invite new residents and new businesses to come in, but not at the expense of the people who stay.’

“But I recognize this is a lot of talk. I’m bullish on Summit Lake. I am. But I also recognize that there is no reason for the residents of Summit Lake to believe me right now. But I’m determined to change that.” 

When asked if the city had communicated their proposal to co-create the land use plan in 2021 to residents, Hardy said, “no,” and acknowledged their lack of communication with residents is “disempowering.” 

Duane Crabbs, founder of South Street Ministries, says Summit Lake has to become more than “a Monopoly board” for city planners. 

“I do feel skeptical, but skepticism doesn’t mean they’re doing something evil. But there comes a point where they do need to show their hand, and you have to ask, what are the conditions and why would they not? What is their purpose? There’s a part of me that says, ‘ehhhh.’ When people are dealing in the abstract, when city planners look at Summit Lake, they look at a map. They don’t see like we do, where, ‘oh, this is where Chris was staying,’ or this family across the street, or the history of this house. We know the particulars. It’s a Monopoly board for them and they’re moving pieces and they’re trying to think of stuff,” Crabbs says.

Editor’s note: Hillary Stewart, Treasurer of The Devil Strip’s Board of Directors, also serves on the board of South Street Ministries. Stewart was not involved in the reporting or editing of this story and did not see it before publication.

Finney adds, “I’m hoping that the City of Akron rights their wrongs. I’m hoping, because they own the majority of the land over here, that they will do right for the next generation coming up.” 

‘A very large and sudden relocation of families’

The year is 1938. It’s May and the sun is setting and there are fireworks exploding over Summit Beach Park, “Akron’s Fairyland of Pleasure.”

The new rollercoaster, Skyrocket, promises to shoot you 66 feet in the air.

Opened in 1917, Summit Beach Park attracted thousands of people each year. Visitors could ride a Ferris Wheel “high up in the clouds,” watch wrestling shows, and visit the “palace of illusions.”

For a long time, Akron’s swimming pools, including Summit Beach Pool, were closed to Black residents. Akron historian David Lieberth says admission to Summit Beach Park was probably open to Black Akronites, but he doesn’t know whether they were welcome at all attractions.

Census data about Summit Lake’s Ira Avenue shows that of the 844 people residing on that street in the 1940s, only six were Black. This changed by the 1960s when many white families left for the suburbs. Additionally, the construction of the Innerbelt and Interstate 76, as well as urban renewal projects around Akron, displaced more than 8,000 households throughout the city. 

Lieberth says families who were displaced by those urban renewal projects likely couldn’t afford housing in different areas of the city, so some settled in Summit Lake. 

“I’ve seen the maps of the areas that were previous to Route 59, and when you look at that intersection of where Route 59 joins I-77, that’s right at the northern edge of Summit Lake,” says Lieberth. “We know there were intact neighborhoods there. We know it was mostly Black families who were relocated because of urban renewal. We can speculate, with some confidence, that there were several hundred families who had to be relocated when Route 59 went in…  That did cause a very large and sudden relocation of families crowding into low-cost housing available in the Summit Lake neighborhoods.”

The influx of those residents “changed the character of Summit Lake, probably forever,” Lieberth ads. 

In her lifetime, Finney’s family members have been displaced three times by urban renewal and highway construction projects. Finney herself was displaced once.

“Every time it’d happen, the city would send a letter, and I’d say, ‘Again!?’” Finney says.

‘You could feel the streets coming alive’

The urban renewal projects, along with the mass layoffs from the rubber industry in the 1970s, led to a large number of Summit Lake residents who were unemployed and now living in an overcrowded neighborhood. 

By the mid-90s, Summit Lake was one of the most densely populated areas in Akron, says Duane Crabbs,  who moved into the neighborhood around that time with his wife, Lisa. 

“You could feel the streets coming alive,” Duane says. “The cars back then had the huge speakers and you’d hear this ‘thump, thump, thump.’ It rattled the house.’”

Lisa Crabbs remembers the sound of children playing in the streets, fights breaking out between couples, the chatter of neighbors and the general humdrum of noise penetrating her home. Resident Jason Blakely remembers car tires screeching in the street, cans of Faygo pop, Little Debbie cakes and empty bags of Doritos littering the street.  

Back then, Summit Lake had the city’s largest elementary school, Lincoln School, which served as the hub of the neighborhood.

“There’s so much history at Lincoln,” says Catera Davis, who grew up in Summit Lake. “I remember how fun it was going there, and with the proximity to the lake, [learning] how to tread [water] was important.”

Lincoln was a community hub, too. It was the site of public meetings and after-school programs for kids. 

When the school closed in 2010, it devastated the neighborhood. 

“Lincoln School was the pivot point. It was the anchor in the neighborhood. So even if it was an under-resourced neighborhood, if you are a family, a mom, a dad, a grandma, you knew your kids were going to get a good education, and the staff really cared,” says Lisa Crabbs. 

Today, the site is a plot of grass owned by Alpha Phi Alpha, a nonprofit that provides housing. 

Though Summit Lake’s music was sometimes too much, many longtime residents now grieve the loss of its sounds. 

“The energy is gone,” Lisa says. “This used to be an active neighborhood, and now it’s all rental property. There’s not a sense of connection. It’s the remnant of the neighborhood we had.”

Many of the residents who previously owned their homes passed away, and now, as one of few neighborhoods in Akron without an elementary school close by, Summit Lake is no longer ideal for families with young children. 

In fact, between 2000 and 2010, Summit Lake experienced more population loss than any other neighborhood in Akron, losing nearly 27% of its residents. 

“A lot of people who owned the homes were elderly,” says Duane Crabbs. “Homeownership dropped from 2000 to 2010 as people died or as people went to nursing homes. Or they turned the house over to their kids and their kids either didn’t know how to care for it or didn’t want to live in Summit Lake.” 

‘Broken teeth’

Today, only 31% of Summit Lake residents own their homes, according to city data. Additionally, many homes “are showing signs of deferred maintenance and are surrounded by vacant lots or abandoned buildings,” according to the city planning department. 

“Right now there is an incredible appraisal gap to build a house in Summit Lake. No banks are lending to build or fix up a house in Summit Lake,” says Hardy. 

Many of the residents who’ve purchased homes in Summit Lake in recent years are either connected with South Street Ministries, which was founded by Duane and Lisa Crabbs in the late 1990s to serve Summit Lake residents, or Catholic Worker, which houses new Americans in Summit Lake. 

More often than not, those who are buying homes end up spending more than a house is worth to fix it up, and must have cash readily available since banks are hesitant to lend in Summit Lake. 

Additionally, city data estimates that from 2008 to 2018, 344 residential units in Summit Lake were demolished by the city. 

In the years prior to that, residents remember widespread demolition after fires, many of which, they say, were caused by arson. The result of these fires is vacant lots spread throughout Summit Lake, a phenomenon city planners call “broken teeth.” 

“How are you going to get rid of the house if it has no value and renovations cost more than it’s worth?” says Mary O’Connor. “You couldn’t get the value out if you sold it, so if you have insurance, you can get the money out from there.”

Walking through the neighborhood now, resident Bob Irwin says it’s “depressing sometimes” seeing empty lots where homes used to stand. 

For some Summit Lake residents, the experience of seeing a home burnt down is all too common. “There was a house my daughter called ‘the fire house,’” says Jason Blakely. “The house caught on fire and we would drive by it sometimes. It took a while before they tore it down.”

Sitting on her back porch, Lisa Crabbs recalls the number of houses she used to be able to see from here. Lisa and her husband used to run South Street Ministries from their backyard.

“I can take a look right here and tell you that house burnt down, that house burnt down,” she says, pointing. “Nature wins in the long run. It’s all trees now.”

‘Rich in talent, rich in love, rich in community, rich in neighborly presence’

Pockets of Summit Lake where homeownership is high is where most of the activity exists. On these streets, like Princeton, you find the heart of Summit Lake: Neighbors sitting on their porches, community gardens shared by all and kids playing basketball in the street. These spots are also where Summit Lake’s generosity is most apparent. If you sit on anyone’s porch long enough, a neighbor will drive by, honking and waving. Someone will stop in, offering tea or cake.

Maybe it sounds idyllic, but if you ask Summit Lake residents, they’ll tell you, “that’s just Summit Lake.”

“I wish people knew how much of a family feel is here. People have your back. People look out for you,” says Bob Irwin, who grew up in the neighborhood and currently works with South Street Ministries.

Jason Blakely, who has lived in Summit Lake his entire life, feels that there’s a “stigma” to living in the neighborhood. 

“The people of Summit Lake are resilient. They’re perseverant. Powerful. Dedicated. Determined,” he says. “But we always have to prove ourselves. That’s where that perseverance comes from, where that resilience comes from… People know what they’re dealing with on the inside. But they also take how they think other people feel and they have to deal with that too. That can be just as heavy as what you’re dealing with.”

For decades, newspapers characterized Summit Lake as “the most crime-ridden neighborhood in Akron.” Most stories portrayed Summit Lake as a community with an abundance of “burglaries” and “crack houses” and highlighted poverty or the number of kids receiving free and reduced lunch.

But Summit Lake residents say these narratives have created false myths about the community they love. 

“I see Summit Lake as a really rich place,” says Eric Nelson, executive director of Students With A Goal, an after-school mentoring group for Summit Lake kids. “Rich in talent, rich in love, rich in community, rich in neighborly presence.” 

Where outsiders see boarded-up homes with dilapidated roofs, Summit Lake residents see neighbors who are willing to lend a cup of sugar. Where outsiders see hauntingly empty lots, Summit Lake residents see opportunities for community gardens and bright red tomatoes harvested in the middle of summer.

Summit Lake, in many ways, is defined by this tension as much as it’s defined by its sense of grit and its enduring nature.

“I see the potential of what [Summit Lake] could be, but I think a lot of outsiders are scared. Scared of what they read or what they see,” says Catera Davis, who grew up in Summit Lake. “You leave Summit Lake and people ask, ‘Where do you live?’ And when you tell them, they make a face and say, ‘Oh, really?’ And it’s hurtful.’”

‘Like a war’ between residents and city officials’

Summit Lake residents don’t deny the challenges in their community. They know average incomes and home values are among the lowest in the city. They know their neighbors struggle. But they wish these challenges, created by the City of Akron’s lack of investment, wouldn’t be all anyone sees or thinks of Summit Lake. 

In the early 2000s, the City of Akron, under the leadership of former Mayor Don Plusquellic, began quietly buying up property in Summit Lake. 

But the breakdown of those conversations led to Summit Lake not receiving any investment for more than a decade. 

What the city wanted to do, says Marco Sommerville, who represented Summit Lake on City Council at the time, was to attract investment to the neighborhood by building newer housing next to older houses. 

But rather than meeting with community members about the plan and gathering feedback, Duane Crabbs says the city came to Summit Lake with a plan. The community responded in fear and anger. They were afraid urban renewal would displace them, yet again, through eminent domain. They were also fearful that new businesses and housing would raise property values, and they would be unable to afford their homes.

Sommerville can remember no plan at the time to freeze property taxes to prevent displacement. He describes the tension between Summit Lake residents and the city “being like a war.” 

“The mayor had a mission,” remembers Duane Crabbs. “He was buying up houses throughout the city…So we held a meeting at Lincoln School, and that’s when we got in trouble.

“We kind of ended up blocking the city, the residents did, and then the mayor from that point on — Plusquellec is a very vindictive guy — he said, ‘Summit Lake is not going to get any money,’” Crabbs continues. “He said there would be no more investment in this neighborhood at all.”

Plusquellic tells The Devil Strip that his plan was to use federal funding to build newer housing on vacant lots, then offer to move Summit Lake’s elderly population into those new homes. He says his plan was to have the city appraise a resident’s current home, apply that amount to the newer home, then give back credit to pay for the difference in the two homes.

Upon sale of the house, or upon death, the city would take back the difference of the money they’d spent. 

“We had a lot of women, in particular, their husband worked in the rubber factory, and after outliving their husband for 20 years or so, their pension just wasn’t that good,” he says. “So what I came up with at Summit Lake was unique, and I thought this was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I came up with an idea that we will buy your house because it’s old.” 

But after the housing plan failed to materialize, Sommerville says, “we just walked away from the neighborhood.” 

By the time former deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth joined the City of Akron in 2002, he remembers a lot of tension between Plusquellic, Sommerville and Crabbs. He also confirms that investment in Summit Lake was stalled and remembers hearing Plusquellic say, on multiple occasions, that they were not going to “deal with Summit Lake.”

“I admit fully I may very well have said that,” Plusquelic says. “In context, it meant, ‘we spent the money somewhere else.’ I mean, you didn’t want it! We did something for you that was unique, and you didn’t want it.

“So we walked away from Summit Lake and said, ‘OK, we’ll take the money and invest it somewhere else.’ I don’t remember what neighborhood replaced it.” Plusquelic continues. “We figured the value proposition of spending money there fighting everybody, and battling was so overwhelming that Marco and [Planning Director] Warren [Woolford] just said, ‘Yep. We can spend it somewhere else.’” 

‘I see the future of Summit Lake, if we do it right, being in the hands of the residents’

Right now, Summit Lake is home to a plethora of organizations that are working for the betterment of the neighborhood. Most of these organizations were created by and for residents. 

Eric Nelson, director of Students with a Goal (SWAG), says there’s a continuum of care working for youth in the neighborhood. Youth typically attend AMHA’s SPARK program from preschool to kindergarten, before transition to South Street Ministries’ Rich Kids Program from kindergarten to fifth grade, and then SWAG from grades six to 12. 

During off hours, neighbors like Stephanie Leonardi have their doors open and their backyards full of trampolines and basketball hoops for kids who stop by.

“One of the things Summit Lake does better than anywhere is we truly collaborate,” Nelson says. “Duane Crabbs specifically created this vision that, when there would be no external support, that there was a way for us to support each other.”

Currently, Summit Metro Parks is investing $600,000 to turn the Pump House, a previously abandoned building along the lakeshore, into a permanent Nature Center through a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 

The Pump House was activated in 2017 when Leonardi began installing art in the boarded-up windows. Previously, like many empty lots in Summit Lake, the area surrounding the Pump House was being mowed and used as a community garden space by Let’s Grow Akron. 

The garden will remain in place after the completion of the Nature Center. 

Let’s Grow Akron has worked in Summit Lake for more than 20 years, and has created hundreds of small community gardens.

“It’s about the beauty of seeing things growing in otherwise vacant and or blighted spaces. It’s uplifting,” says director Lisa Nunn. 

In 2016, with funding from the Knight Foundation and other funders, the Akron Civic Commons (ACC) project started in Akron. The initial grant was worth $5 million, which was split between downtown Akron, Ohio Erie and Canal Park and Summit Lake. 

Dan Rice, president and CEO of the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition, was appointed to work in Summit Lake upon the launch of the Akron Civic Commons initiative in 2016. When he began working in Summit Lake, there was immediate suspicion. 

“What we learned early on in our relationship-building is, unfortunately, there’s been a legacy of things done to and not with, and things promised and not delivered to neighborhood residents in the Summit Lake neighborhood. There was mistrust,” says Rice.

After countless community conversations and resident input, the eastern shore of Summit Lake was given a facelift. There are picnic tables and chairs, barbecue grills, lighting and more.

Resident Jetora Carter, who rents a home next to the lake and what will soon be the Nature Center, has seen Summit Lake transformed before her eyes. Five years ago, looking out from her window, she saw an abandoned house, countless overgrown trees and the boarded-up Pump House. Today, she can see the lake and the construction of the Nature Center. 

Jetora is a single mom of four kids. Her oldest daughter, Alicia, 16, is helping install artwork in the Nature Center alongside Leonardi’s organization, Summit Lake Build Corps. 

“I can’t wait for the Nature Center to be done so the kids can have somewhere to play and learn,” she says. “All of the change has been positive.” 

The lake used to represent a place of fear for some residents. Poet and resident Jason Blakely remembers an incident of a woman driving into the lake as a suicide attempt. Some residents also remember people hiding their guns in the lake, or, rumor had it, dead bodies. 

Today, Summit Lake is a source of inspiration. 

“It’s a place where you can come with your family, barbecue, and sit out on the lake and swing and have your kids play on the playground. There’s fishing and a walking trail. As a family, with my kids and my wife, we would walk on the trail when it was warmer. It’s so peaceful,” Blakely says.

Initially, these changes were difficult to make. In Summit Lake, residents say there’s a legacy of thinking the community doesn’t deserve good things, or that residents won’t take care of good things. This proved to be false once changes around the lake started to happen and residents took ownership of the space. 

While everyone The Devil Strip spoke to praised the work being done on the lakeshore, some felt that safe, affordable housing and economic development are still lacking in the neighborhood. 

“The interior of Summit Lake has a story to tell as well,” says Joe Tucker, who is the executive director at South Street Ministries.

“A lot of focus right now is on the lake,” adds Catera Davis. “But what about the rest of the neighborhood? Yes, you’ve made this attraction, this thing that’s going to draw people here, but what does that mean for us? And it’s a conversation no one wants to start or have.  

“This part of Summit Lake,” adds Davis, pointing to the neighborhood, “— it’s not pretty. It’s real and it’s raw and it’s complicated. We live in it every day. We go through the bad and we go through the good. And it all sounds easy on paper… Add businesses, add this, add that. But the core of it is the people. And you can’t heal people’s pain and the struggles they go through by adding a new store. You can’t build a nature center and expect that to solve the rate of homelessness.”

While Summit Lake has an abundance of nonprofits and churches helping in the neighborhood, there’s a lack of economic activity. There are no gas stations or sit-down restaurants. The closest grocery store, Save A Lot, is on the edge of the neighborhood. When residents need something quickly, they walk to a corner store, like Princeton Market and Steve’s Market. 

And while Akron Civic Commons has updated the walking and biking trail, Summit Lake is not walkable. Sidewalks are missing in some parts of the neighborhood. Many of the sidewalks that exist are broken or have overgrown trees and grass extending through them. This forces residents into walking through the streets, and in some cases, not walking at all. 

The narrative that’s emerged following improvements along the lakeshore, says Stephanie Leonardi, is one that’s so positive it often ignores the realities of Summit Lake that Catera Davis refers to. She says this story about Summit Lake isn’t the “whole story, or the only story,” either.

“There is Summit Lake, the body of water and what’s surrounding it. And then there is Summit Lake, the neighborhood. They’re not the same thing. One singular narrative isn’t the whole story,” Leonardi says. “Brene Brown says something like, ‘If you own your story, you can rewrite the ending.’ So in this context, I’m asking, ‘who owns Summit Lake’s story? And who is writing the ending, or better yet, what’s next?’”

For many renters living in Summit Lake, who frequently bounce from rental to rental and are consistently facing homelessness and poverty, it’s hard for them to imagine their place in Summit Lake as this wave of changes hig the lakefront. 

Most recently, funders have pledged an additional $10 million dollars for the north shore side of Summit Lake, which hasn’t been touched since the freeways were built. So far, $7.5 million has been raised, with significant funding from the Knight Foundation and the City of Akron, says Rice. 

James Hardy says the city will gather feedback for its new land use plan by holding community meetings, having community events where they generate feedback from residents, and possibly hiring people to knock on doors. 

He says there are ways for the city to equitably plan and ensure current residents who own properties in Summit Lake are prioritized in the process — for example, by freezing property taxes for current residents to prevent displacement and strictly zoning the neighborhood to ensure it remains residential. 

As for renters, which make up the majority of people residing in Summit Lake, Hardy says the city is still “thinking through how to put renters in a stable position ahead of investment in the neighborhood,” and that “no one strategy has been determined yet.” 

And as for Civic Commons, Hardy says that process was never meant to transform the whole of the neighborhood. 

“I do believe strongly that by activating the lake itself, and the investments we’re going to make there, will undoubtedly aid in the redevelopment of the neighborhood itself. It does so through creating an attractive neighborhood, it does so through creating amenities that people want in a livable neighborhood, and we did it through and with the residents. 

“The work around the Civic Commons is not the end of the story,” Hardy continues “Right now, it’s gotten a lot of publicity, there’s been a lot of very legitimate pride from all sides in the work that’s being done there, but it has not and was never necessarily intended to completely transform the dynamic of people’s lives. That can only be done through a full-scale redevelopment of the neighborhood.”

“But this is not an ACC project. This is a city and Summit Lake relationship project with the whole neighborhood,” he adds. 

Ward 3 councilwoman Margo Sommerville says the city is “considering ACC as the process to creating the redevelopment plan for Summit Lake.” Rice says the city has asked for ACC’s assistance. 

Until the city begins its land use project with residents in 2021, city-owned land continues to be off limits to residents, many of whom continue to feel skeptical because of the city’s lack of communication. 

In the meantime, Summit Lake residents continue to invest in their neighbors, advocate for their community and fight for truer narratives about Summit Lake to emerge, so that ultimately, they can finally write the end to their own story. 

“I love the attitude of the people,” Blakely says. “They’re resilient. There’s a lot of eyes that look down on the people of Summit Lake, who dismiss the people of Summit Lake. As someone who lives here, and others too, we take that as a challenge. We’re just as worthy as other neighborhoods in town with the projects that are going on, roads that need to be fixed, buildings that need to be built, houses that need to be constructed. This area is not without its troubles, but it has so much more to give and to offer and to be recognized for.”

Noor Hindi is the Equity and Inclusion reporter at The Devil Strip. Email her at noor@thedevilstrip.com.