Friday, July 28, 2006

time to replace my OBX sticker with my NEO sticker?

This evening I listened to an interesting radio interview about the economic development community of Northeast Ohio. You can download the mp3 here. For those of you regular readers from outside of the pierogie-haluski belt, NorthEast Ohio = NEO.

Featured as guests were Tom Waltermine of Team NEO, Ed Morrison from the Institute of Open Economic Networks, and Jay Miller from Crane's Cleveland Business Newspaper. One of the conversation's themes was the developing necessity and ability for the region of Northeast Ohio to network and cooperate together.

So is it important for Northeast Ohio to be better networked culturally as a region before we can move together economically as a region?

And how do we build our shared region-wide culture?

- - -

I know tons of people in Ohio that have the europeanesque 3-letter oval sticker with OBX attached to their rear bumper. It screams to the world, "hey, I'm cool. I went to the Outer Banks one year for vacation. In fact, my uncle has a timeshare down there."

So if people from here sport OBX stickers on their cars, would they ever attach an oval sticker with the letters N-E-O to proclaim their Ohio pride to the universe? Maybe NEO stickers can be like FOP stickers: if you have one on your window, the cops won't give you a speeding ticket. Or if you have a NEO sticker, you can get 1 dollar off parking at the lots in downtown cleveland during a sporting event.

Just think of it: people from around the world will respect your NEO roots and pride. When you are driving in Pittsburgh and incorrectly (although legally) yield to oncoming traffic when making a left hand turn, people will mutter "damn NEO drivers."

Would it ever catch on? . . . maybe . . . maybe not.

A experiement might be to pass them out to all the local economic developers and citizens at the next Voices and Choices meeting. It would be interesting to see if they ever pop up around the region. If 0.25% of the cars in this area sport NEO identification on their back bumper, it may gradually push the concept of "a united region" to more and more individuals.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

master plan for the downtown

"everything that you do should be predicated on the fundamental premise that Youngstown is a city with a future."

So said Allan Mallach of the National Housing Institute when he spoke at the the first installment of the Youngstown 2010 - Wick Neighbors Neighborhood Reinvestment Series.

Mr. Mallach presented a number of interesting ideas about how to bring investment to city neighborhoods. One of our neighborhoods is the downtown.

Consider the statement in yesterday's Vindicator and the future of the downtown neighborhood:
"The city is seeking a CIC resolution in support of
allowing the Youngstown Municipal Court to have first option on any development at the former Masters building complex on West Federal Street."
This story made me think of the benefits and drawbacks of placing yet another government structure on Youngstown's main street. I have made no secret in the past of my opinion that the Children Services Building on Federal Street is a poorly designed structure because of its brick wall with no entry or function that runs along the entire front of that building.

The front of the building effectively makes that segment of Federal Street a dead zone, closed to future commerce and accessibility for the next thirty years.

And while the New Court of Appeals on the the other side of the street in a nice building and it replaces some abandoned structures, it's a government building as well. Government buildings, like the possible future Youngstown Municipal Court at the Masters site, will be visited regardless of location in the downtown because people need their services.

So is now the time that we begin to save the space along Youngstown's main street for private sector investment, mixed-use housing with retail in the ground floor, or other structures that are more friendly to foot traffic?

Or perhaps a compromise of function can be utilized: we can have retail and restaurant space facing Federal Street, and the court complex be connected to this, facing another street front. There seems to be a lot of space in that recently demolished city block.

Maybe it is time that we develop a master plan for the downtown.

By drawing together business owners, downtown workers, city residents, urban planners, landscape architects, and other stakeholders to create a plan of action, similar to the Youngstown 2010 process, that can be used to guide the future land use downtown.

my question for each of you is:

What do you want Downtown Youngstown to look like in ten years?

Can a downtown master plan help us to reach that goal?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Youngstowners, go spend your NEO bucks!

First off, I regret that this is my first post of the month. Trying to blog from internet cafes and random people's apartments in eastern europe is a difficult situation to say the least. I have tons of blog ideas in my head right now, and I just need to get them onto the internet.

Getting back to business . . .

Bit by bit over the past two weeks, I have been completing my Voices & Choices Choicebook online. It works like this: over the past two years, the Voices & Choices program has been both identifying the problems of Northeast Ohio's development and collecting possible solutions to our challenges.

The Choicebook is the attempt to have individual residents give their opinions on what solutions should be targeted for implementation. If you are a regular reader of this blog, and have not completed this online survey, please consider doing so.

If you are regular reader from Rome or Paris or Washington DC or Youngstown (thanks for your continual support, by the way) or anywhere, and seek the opportunity to contribute to charting our future, click here to begin.

Each section takes about 8 minutes to compete, and there are six sections. After getting input from the public through these Choicebooks, the results will be aggregated and an agenda will be created.