The National Park Service has added the Kenmore Boulevard Historic District to its National Register of Historic Places. Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance Executive Director Tina Boyes announced designation Sept. 6 during the organization’s final Kenmore First Friday event of 2019. It is the first such designation for a neighborhood business district in Akron.
National Register inclusion makes Kenmore Boulevard Historic District properties eligible for historic tax credits, which according to the state’s Office of Strategic Business Investments can have “catalytic economic impact.” When combined with Kenmore Boulevard’s Opportunity Zones, which delay tax on capital gains when invested in properties or businesses the district, Boyes said the impact could be even greater. One project, 952 and 956 Kenmore Blvd., is already in the works by Ederer & Associates, she said.
“We know how daunting commercial revitalization can be, but when you factor in all the city, state and federal incentives and the increased neighborhood retail demand coming with Romig Road development, Kenmore Boulevard suddenly becomes an attractive place to invest your money,” Boyes added.
Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance began pursuing the National Registry designation in 2018, the same year the city of Akron named Kenmore one of 11 Great Streets Districts eligible for competitive façade grants and infrastructure investments. The designation won support from both the Kenmore Historical Society and Kenmore Boulevard property owners and received funding from the city of Akron and Ohio Historic Preservation Pipeline Initiative. The state’s historic preservation office approved the nomination March 22.
The Kenmore Boulevard Historic District runs roughly from 872 to 1017 Kenmore Blvd. and includes 2181 14th St. SW, 2200 15th St. SW and 940 Florida Ave. Its properties reflect the architecture of the early 20th century, with entrances built to the sidewalk to accommodate pedestrians and streetcar users, said historic architect Lauren Burge, principal at Perspectus Historic Architecture, the Chambers, Murphy, & Burge Studio and author of the district’s nomination.
“The district retains its sense of scale and feeling,” she said. “Most of the contributing buildings to the Kenmore Boulevard Historic District were constructed within a 20-year period between 1908 and 1928 and retain their materials and workmanship, imparting the overall feeling of an early 20th century ‘streetcar suburb’ commercial district.”
In 1901, the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company developed streetcar lines to connect new suburban developments to factories. The Kenmore Boulevard line was sited down the center of Kenmore Boulevard, creating a connection between rubber factories in Akron and neighboring industry in Barberton. That same year, the Akron Realty Company began developing Kenmore to be what they termed “the choicest residence section for both the busy cities, as well as for all the factories between them.”
Kenmore’s streetcar line stopped operating in 1947, but its impact can be seen in the tree-lined center median in its former location and in the growth of the neighborhood, which grew from 1,561 residents in 1910 to 12,683 in 1920 to – today – more than 18,000 residents, making Kenmore the second largest of Akron’s 24 neighborhoods.