Team Better Block recently received a $155,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to pursue an innovative project in Akron, Ohio. They’ll be converting excess housing stock in the city into boutique hostels and cultural hubs utilizing the Airbnb platform. Loeb Andrew Howard, co-founder of Team Better Block, reports:
Through multiple visits and conversations with Akron city leaders and residents, we identified the need for increased hotel options near the downtown area. At the same time, the City of Akron, Ohio, is faced with population declines, excessive housing stock, and a lowered tax base to maintain existing infrastructure. This problem, combined with the lack of hotels near the city’s core, provided the opportunity to temporarily repurpose existing housing stock as Airbnb hostels or hotels, to demonstrate to the community how their homes can be activated and returned to economic viability.
By focusing on the North Hill neighborhood where a Better Block project is currently in development, we'll engage the growing Bhutanese refugee community (representing 70 percent of new immigration to the area) when developing the concept. This will give the demonstration a cultural point of reference while providing a shared cultural amenity on the ground for the neighborhood. The Airbnb concept will operate for 18 months and provide a detailed prototype that enables residents to learn how to convert other homes in the area into shared economic resources.
The Knight Cities Challenge awards $5 million annually for ideas that lead to big community impact. Team Better Block’s project met all 3 key drivers of city success: attracting and retaining talented people, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of civic engagement.
The Better Block team is celebrating the award with a party March 31 from 5 to 9 pm at their new office location, 323 W Jefferson Boulevard in Dallas, Texas.
Learn about all the Knight Cities Challenge winners.