Monday, January 15, 2007

the state of the state address

Had the opportunity to stop by Cedar's Cafe on Friday night for a community meeting about the future of the State Theater located on West Federal Street.

Here is a rundown of the situation:

According to the myspace page of the meeting's organizers, the State Theatre was constructed in 1915 and is the oldest theater remaining downtown. It was renamed the Agora in the 1970s and closed for good in the 1980s. Since that time, the structure has been boarded up, only to be entered by the occasional curious explorer, pigeons, and rainwater. So for about two decades, this historical structure has deteriorated in appearance and structural stability.

Fast forward to January 2007. The property is now owned by the Youngstown Community Improvement Corporation (CIC), a non-profit entity which maintains control over many of the empty buildings downtown. The Youngstown Business Incubator is looking to expand its operations in close proximity to its main building, with ground broken for an adjacent 30,000 sq. ft. space for its growing companies, and hoping to rennovate two additional existing historic structures on the same block.

Under this scenario, every building between Hazel Street and the Home Savings and Loan Building would then have a plan for future function, with the exception of the State Theater and the Armed Forces building next door.

But what to do with these buildings? Some advocate their demolition so the space can be used for surface parking lots. Others advocate their total restoration. Others advocate a compromise between these two extremes.

And it was at this meeting over the weekend that many of these possibilities were discussed. Questions such as "Is the seating section of the theater intact?" and "Has a day been chosen to demolish the existing structures?" as well as "Is the facade worth saving?" were posed by those seated in the audience.

So based upon statements made both during and after the meeting, here is a quick list featuring a wide range of possibilities for the State Theater:

plan a - Rennovate the entire structure, facade and all, back to operational capacity.
plan b - Demolish the stage and auditorium between Boardman Street and the alley, rennovate the existing portion between the alley and West Federal, and keep the facade in place.
plan c - Demolish everything behind the facade, keep the facade in place, and use it as the front of a new building, pavillion, or public space structure.
plan d - Demolish everything behind the facade, keep only a structurally reinforced facade in place, and illuminate it.
plan e - Move the facade to another location in the city and demolish the rest.
plan f - Demolish everything, save nothing, dance on the ashes.

Maybe it is time for members of the public, the staff at the CIC, the stakeholders of the business incubator expansion, and members of the mayor's administration to sit down and listen to eachother's interests. At that point, it may be possible to estimate the short-term costs and long-term consequences of each of the possible plans.

And to be certain, it was exciting to see a diverse group of forty to fifty Youngstown-Americans come together and discuss the future of our downtown, and hitting the streets to explore the landscape. Of the two people who organized this initial meeting, one is a high school student and the other is a freshman in college. It is a small reminder that in the city of Youngstown, both the younger generations and the older generations have the ability to contribute to its future.

Indeed a receptive audience seems to be out there. Keep it coming.

1 comment:

William Eynon III said...

Very good blog about a great event. I too was in attendance and find it wonderful that so many younger people are interrested in the future of Youngstown and want to save a landmark like the State Theater. I especially enjoyed talking to you at the Boxcar Lounge after the meeting.