Wednesday, March 26, 2008

building a courthouse-only structure on the Master's block is not a good idea

The latest arguement du-jour making its way into the local media is if the city will build a new courthouse to house its municipal judges.

While you can read more details of the back-and-forth here, there is a component within the story which caught our attention:
"In a May 2002 resolution, city council “expresses its intent to allocate future city capital improvement funds to support the construction and amortization of debt to fund a city justice center.” A lack of money has stalled the project since then.

The courthouse would be a 35,000 square-foot facility on two levels with a 20,000 square-foot basement and 50 surface parking spaces. The site picked is a lot at the southwest corner of West Federal Street at Vindicator Square, once the location of Master’s Tuxedo."
Whether it's wanted or not, here's our 2 cents worth:

Without a doubt, other alternatives to constructing a courthouse-only structure on Federal Street should be sought.

The downtown of Youngstown in 2008 is a much different place than the downtown of 2002.

Federal Street is looking much better, and the need for more and more government-only structures on our main street is not needed at this time.

We are witnessing right now a split of usage along West Federal Street. Restaurants and ground floor business are clustering around the Wick to Hazel Street area. Entertainment options such as the symphony are clustering on the other end. And a gulf of government-only structures is set to dominate the space between these two destinations.

While the expansion of the YBI is a welcome circumstance, its buildings and the county's government buildings on the site of the former massive McKelvey's store are creating a pedestrian's no-man land, with no street level commerce and activity as people shift between the culutral institutions and entertainment options.

Using the Master's Tuxedo space for the same purpose for government buildings is a step in the wrong direction.

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Some thoughts/questions:

If anything goes up on that space, why can't it be a mixed use structure, with commerce on the ground floor and "judgement" on the upper floors?

Why can't the now-empty judges' chambers within the City Hall Annex be used for the municipal courts?

Does it make more sense to build the courts closer to the jail or other county justice-related buildings?

What efficiencies are gained by promoting proximity and lessening the cost of prisioner movement?

Why does the main drag of the city need to be filled with public buildings instead of private businesses?

Should the Youngstown 2020 plan contain a downtown master plan?

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The downtown has come a long way in a short time and will continue to get better.

The need to destroy blighted structures such as the Paramount Theater, the Kress Building, and the facade of the State Theater should not be placed before the need to retain the things that make our downtown unique.

The same concept of good planning should extend to what buildings we place on what spots thoughout the downtown.


J.R. said...

A mixed use structure is not desirable because of security issues. The annex was considered in the past, and they decided at the time that they wanted a new structure because of cost. But, they may reconsider the annex building.

Alee said...

How bad is the current courthouse? The Vindy article had a quote saying it was like a third-world country. I hope that the right people hear your ideas, because as of now it sounds like a back and forth fight between two sides, with a lot more people losing.

Anonymous said...

The notion of putting one more government structure on Federal Street is ridiculus! I can understand the problem with the old annex, and the problem of security if a government building is mixed use. Why instead don't they start looking between Fifth Avenue and Belmont, it would be much closer to the jails, and if my memory serves me correctly there is quite a bit of empty space over there for building and parking. I think this issue is as important if not more so than the trees on the medians. If you hear more, or they discuss at counsel get the word out so that the people can speak yet again.