Wednesday, April 26, 2006

jane jacobs died today (1916-2006)

This morning I visited the website of Metropolis Magazine to read their article in this month's issue about Youngstown, and their thoughts on the 2010 program and sustainable community design.

But what caught my eye at the top of the page was the announcement of the death of Jane Jacobs, who many in the city planning field regard at the greatest commentator in history about the subject of city living. Some call her a prophet.

An interesting interview can be found here. Her New York Times obituary can be found here.

"Designing a dream city is easy," she one said. "Rebuilding a living one takes imagination."

Monday, April 24, 2006

free college tuition for youngstown city students

The school district in the city of Kalamazoo (MI) has attacted a lot of press with their "Kalamazoo Promise" - an effort to send all of their public school students to college in Michigan for free. A few recent articles have shown the possible impact that this announcement has had in the community.

With its commitment to the Promise, Kalamazoo is upsetting the traditional economic-development model. In the past, blighted cities across the nation signed onto various types of revitalization plans. Mainly, they focused on physical improvements -- including new public spaces, office parks and other civic amenities -- in hopes of spurring economic and social progress.

Words such as "education-minded" and "investment in the right places" have been used to describe this project. Housing constuction is up in the city, and 277 youngsters are registered to start kindergarten next September -- up from 193 last year.


I propose a similar project to be implemented by the Youngstown City Schools, perhaps based on the Kalamazoo model, to guarantee full college tuition at Youngstown State University to any city school graduate. Other stipulations such as high school g.p.a. requirements, YSU g.p.a. requirements can be added to the program to provide extra incentives for students to work hard. Other components such as required community service hours and internship opportunities can also be tied to the proposal.

But it is just a proposal. We need to take it to the next level and perform an analysis on the costs and scope of the concept. Tuition at YSU for an in-state student per academic year is around $6500. I'm going to estimate 500 students graduate from the Youngstown City public high school in a given year. (Data is not easily accessible at the school district's website plus with all the open enrollment issues, this number is just an approximation). With students choosing other universities and participation in Youngstown Early College tweaking this number, the maximum amount of money needed per year for this type of program is 3 million dollars.

3 million dollars is just a back of the envelope calculation, but this seems to not be an enormous figure - especially considering the potential impact of the program.

What I like about the Kalamazoo Promise is its boldness. When I heard about it for the first time I thought "sweet jesus, that is a big commitment". But the truth is, we need a statement in Youngstown that we too are committed to the youth of the city. A program like this may help rise the depressingly low dropout rates in the public schools, as well as raising an individual student's desire to work hard.

And it sends a message to the rest of the country, if not the world, that the city of Youngstown is serious about education.

Friday, April 14, 2006

one day we will meet again

France, her mystery
Her history
Around each corner
A story unfolds

En Paris ces't ma couer
En Paris ces't ma maison

One day we will meet again
One day we will meet again

Copyright ©2005 Peter B. Lebuhn

Friday, April 07, 2006

design in den haag

Well, the Spring Herring (Hollandse Nieuwe) have arrived! Say what?

About this time of year, the first boats return from the North Sea and their conents are believed to be the freshest and tastiest fish of the year. The recipe for one of these sammiches includes: one fresh baked broodje (small bun), one unskinned raw herring with the head and tail recently removed, a heaping of onions, and an adventurous spirit.

Walking around Den Haag, I took a few photos of designs that were interesting. Check out this one which is a street light embedded within the sculpture of a flower. Wouldn't a string of these look really good in a narrow street like Phelps between West Federal and Commerce?

And following up on a previous blog about signage, here is a directional sign with a tiny rendition of a native bird at the top. Very distinctive!

It just goes to show how little pieces of thoughtful design here and there can really liven up a place.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

a brew and a view

I saw V for Vendetta last night. I was a pretty cool flick, but I liked the theater we watched it in even more.

This place had a full bar in the back of the room with 6 beers on tap, hard stuff, and juices. There was a shelf with little lamps on them where you could put your snacks and drinks during the movie. I loved it. Wouldn't it be cool to take one of liquor licenses Y.A.E.D.A. talks about on their site, get the Austintown movie people together, and have a place downtown where you can grab a brew and watch a cool film?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Youngstown Arts Center opens in refurbished building

A 99 year old building which previously housed a school in Youngstown reopened in February 2006 as a community center containing 36 live/work studios for artists of all disciplines and 25,000 square feet of public space. The public space includes galleries, conference and classroom space, and a recording studio. Thanks to support from strong neighborhood associations and the surrounding community, the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center has found new life, and a new purpose.

Did this occur in Youngstown, Ohio?

Well, not quite. It took place in the Delridge neighborhood in the city of Seattle. It turns out that this neighborhood on the western side of Puget Sound was at one point named Youngstown before it was incorporated into the city. Why was it named this? It seems two gentlemen, William Pigott and Judge Wilson from our little ol' Youngstown in Ohio established a steel mill in the area named Seattle Steel back in 1904 and renamed the area "Youngstown". The Youngstown School was built in 1907 as a place to educate the children of the immigrants who worked there. The school continued to function until 1989, when it was judged as seismically unsafe and closed. In 1999 the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association made refurbishing the boarded-up school a priority in their neighborhood's master plan.

People from various income levels can afford to live in the building, as stated in a recent story in the Seattle Times :
The four-story building is home to an alternative school, a handful of arts organizations and even artists themselves. A hard rocker from New Jersey and a couple of trapeze artists from Seattle are among those who dwell in the 36 low-income studios atop the first-floor public space. Artists must earn less than half of the Seattle-area median income — for a single person, that's $27,250 a year — to qualify, said Philippa Nye, former project manager of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.

And already I can hear the whiners sitting at their computers in Ohio reading this and saying "but that was in Seattle" and "projects like that require money" which are worthwhile statements, but sometimes you need to look outside your backyard to see the projects that can take shape within your backyard. This story is a fantastic example of how people came together to support their local arts community - an arts community that now uses refurbished historical architecture and contributes to the tax base of the city.

Within the last year, fire destroyed the Mattress Factory Arts Center, a place in Youngstown where the existing creative community both lived and worked. And now the community is scattered. Conversations with the Youngstown CIC to renovate the Semple Building into artist lofts have been openly discussed and proposed, but so far no action has been taken.

The Salvation Army Building on Mahoning Avenue could also have been a potential location for many types of redevelopment including artist lofts, but within a very short amount of time the building went from a propery of value to an blighted eyesore to be demolished . . . due to poor ownership, failure to secure and police the building, and excessive vandalization. Two ongoing online debates on the issue can be found here and here.

I believe this story teaches us three things:
1 - interesting projects incorporating the arts and housing are possible, and we need to be open to opportunties such as these because a thriving arts community adds to the economic development of an area.
2 - we need to take the steps as a community to secure and protect our historical structures now, instead of waiting until they are blighted, eventually leaving us with few options.
3 - strong neighborhood organizations and bountiful community input may create innovative solutions to problems.

Incidentally, the steel mill started over 100 years ago by those guys from Youngtown, Ohio is still functioning today in the city of Seattle, after a series of modernizations over the decades.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

big blimpin' in the ak-rowdy

Today I stumbled upon a brillant website by some entrepreneurs in Akron who formed the Rubber City Clothing Company. A collection of their t-shirts for sale can be found here, which include hipster phrases like "bright lights, blimp city" and "for a good time, call 330" as well as other pseudo-punk cool designs. Kudos to the guy who got the akron tattoo in their photo section.

There is a "defend youngstown" logo I like designed by a north-sider, which I think (but I'm not sure) has its origins from a New Orleans concept.

These ideas are a start, but I am calling on the creative types of the Mahoning Valley to post in the comments section here some ideas for a youngstown-based design along these same lines. If the design is good enough, I would be willing to front some money to support a limited production of these t-shirts to sell.

Any ideas?

Monday, April 03, 2006

grassroots iPod dj

I recently frequented a bar on 14th street in DC that has an ipod dj night. What is that exactly?

Well anyone in the basement of the lounge had the opportunity to plug their ipod or mp3 player into the stereo system for a ten minute time window. You play a few songs that fills your ten minute slot, otherwise you listen to what everyone else plays. The next day on the internet, the playlist is posted so you can go and explore the artists and look for the songs you heard. Another article on the subject found in Wired magazine can be read here.

I really enjoyed myself, and will attend this type of event in the future. What other ways can we incorporate technology into things to do in Youngstown?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

preserve the freedom of thought

Thanks to the very special V., who introduced me to Prévert when we were sleeping in the sun a few years ago.

Embauché malgré moi dans l'usine à idées
J'ai refusé de pointer
Mobilisé de même dans l'armée des idées
J'ai déserté

by Jacques Prévert from Choses et autres