Transforming a freeway into a forest


The Innerbelt National Forest will create a lush temporary forest and public space on a section of the soon-to-be closed Innerbelt Freeway in Akron, Ohio, physically reconnecting the downtown with the adjacent neighborhoods and providing a shared space for residents from different socioeconomic levels to come together.

 This 2 acre green space will live for three months, feature hundreds of trees, trails, unique lighting elements, and water features. Programming such as concerts, farmers markets, and movie screenings will draw young professionals working and living downtown, college students who rarely explore outside campus, and residents from the other side of the freeway, to come together in a unique and inviting space.

 Bringing these three groups together in the same place will build empathy between them and create new relationships among neighbors that have not previously been explored. The overwhelming narrative that there is nothing to do in downtown Akron will be directly challenged, offering residents a positive space filled with activity and direct ways to contribute to the future of the city.  

 The project will be resident-led and community-driven. Residents will be hired from each neighborhood on both sides of the freeway and the nearby University of Akron to assist in the project development and be champions for the involvement of their respective communities. All materials used for the project will be re-used or re-planted by Summit Metro Parks and other partners and learnings will be shared with the City and local organizations who can steward a permanent green space on the freeway.


Atlantic Citylab

Smithsonian Magazine