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Old and new work together in Akron

Photo courtesy Akron Summit CVB

Old and new complement one another in downtown Akron, Ohio.

Two years ago, the city of Akron took over a historic Masonic temple across the street from the John S. Knight Center and turned over the management of the historic event venue to the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CVB, led by Susan Hamos, has  managed the Knight Center since 1995, the only CVB in Ohio to run a convention center.

The location of Greystone Hall, as the handsome building is called, has been key to the bureau’s success in building meeting business.

Greystone Hall has allowed a number of conventions and conferences to expand, even as the Knight Center remained the same.

Its interesting mix of meeting space has made Greystone a graceful partner for the contemporary convention center.

“The Knight Center is very contemporary but sometimes we are limited in the meeting part of the event,” said Jim Mahon, the CVB’s director of marketing and communications. “What we have found is that when a client wanted to grow an event, we can shift aspects across the street.”
For example, a luncheon or dinner at Greystone is a short walk and “a wonderful change of scenery,” said  Mahon.

The temple’s two-story ballroom has proved nimble, shifting from a formal dinner for one organization to a tradeshow floor for another.

Two smaller meeting rooms, the Doric and Egyptian rooms, have been used for retreats and board meetings.

The building’s venues are surprising in their diversity and  have  the extravagant touches that the Freemasons included in their early-20th century meeting halls: marble, wood moldings, intricate lighting fixtures, fanciful ceilings and skylights.

The ballroom, which seats about 200 for dinners, remains the building’s signature space. When the ballroom is used with the Masons’ former billiard room and the Barrister’s Lounge, groups easily  transition from reception to dinner.

Because it has its own chef and two kitchens, Greystone is not dependent on the convention center for foodservice.

A number of organizations have used the convention center and Greystone in tandem, including Ohio-based Smuckers and the Ohio parks and recreation department.

The seven-story building also includes ground-level retail space. The  CVB has been charged with managing a restaurant space and opened the Creperie, which serves crepes for breakfast and lunch. It is popular with the public and with convention attendees.