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VILLAGE TO LEAP INTO THE NEXT CENTURY WITH NEW OLD-FASHIONED LOOK

The Village of Akron is poised to leap into the 21st century by enhancing the 19th-century look of Main Street.

Armed with a $100,000 grant from the Empire State Development Corp., nearly as much from 17 Main Street building owners and at least $40,000 in village funds, the village is trying to recapture some of the flavor of its 158-year-old past.

"They didn't have to do much to give it the 19th-century look," remarked a former Main Street occupant and frequent visitor.

The project has included repaving Main Street from Washington Street to the Route 93 curve at the lower end of Main, planting 16 trees and installing 16 old-style street lamps and, with cash grants, encouraging 17 merchants to upgrade the facades of their buildings.

"We are hoping that the Main Street project will help us draw more tourists to Akron to see the Octagon House, Akron Hotel, Russell Park and local shops," said Sylvia Ross, the decorator and former Chamber of Commerce president who has overall charge of the project.

"I first heard about the state grants in 1995," she said. "People said that I couldn't do anything to Main Street. 'Oh, yes I can,' I told them."

And with Village Board cooperation, she did. "Originally, Akron was promised $225,000," Mrs. Ross said. "But the development corporation apparently gave away more money than it had and we were cut back to $100,000. The owners of buildings originally were to get half the costs of their improvements. Now they're only to get about a third, but most are going ahead anyway.

"Most of the facade-improvement contracts have been bid and signed. The village went ahead early and repaved Main Street, widened the sidewalks on the south side of Main Street and put in some bump-outs.

"We already received our new old-fashioned street lamps and we are expecting the new light poles this week."

Mrs. Ross, a lifelong Akron resident, said most Akron residents like their village the way it is and a few did not want to see any changes.

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