Steve Coon remains extremely bullish about the city center's potential for continued transformation.

Developer Steve Coon looks at Stark County as if it's an apple.

"If the core is rotten, you won't want to eat the rest," he said in explaining his affinity for revitalizing Canton, the county's core.

In recent years, it's possible only the city of Canton has invested more time and money in downtown revitalization than Coon. And after successfully completing a handful of major renovation projects, most visibly the historic Onesto Lofts and adjacent Bliss Tower apartments, he remains extremely bullish about the city center's potential for continued transformation.

"A movement is taking place," he said recently. "People want a walkable downtown Canton. Downtown tells a story, and we're not done telling it. In fact, we've just started."

Visit Canton, the Stark County Convention and Visitors' Bureau, can help to tell that story from about 2,400 square feet of office space it soon will occupy inside the Onesto.

"They definitely promote Stark County, and having them in our building is huge," Coon said when the deal announcing Visit Canton's move was made this spring.

Still, the real impact comes with attracting and retaining residential tenants.

Coon said when Onesto and Bliss both are fully occupied, which is expected soon, more than 1,000 residents will call downtown home. He expects that number to rise as more space becomes available.

About a dozen blocks to the south, at the former Hercules Engine Co. plant, developer Bob Timken shares a similar vision for downtown's potential.

Vacant for almost 20 years, the Hercules complex in early May was opened to the public to showcase the restoration work that has turned an eyesore into upscale apartments and common space with an industrial flair.

Additional redevelopment at the site, which covers 26 acres overall, is expected to add retail and office space availability. Highway access lies just around the corner.

Developers like Coon and Timken are banking that residents living and working downtown — with a segment of that population looking to live either without cars or choosing to use them minimally — will mean more goods and service providers also move into available downtown locations, creating a self-sustaining critical mass.

"I'm spinning the wheel and banking that downtown (Canton) comes back. It's risk with reward," Coon said. "Everybody thought I was nuts (to refurbish Onesto). 'You must have more money than sense,' they said. But you just need one project to spark something."