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?


Anonymous said...

I cannot recall who mentioned something about public art, scuptures, and a potential bronze over near Powers with a contemporary "Crack the Whip," however, that idea was beyond extraordinary! I really think we should have that drawn up. Then we should pitch it to the Ohio Arts Council in attempts to have it funded! I just learned that there is a Crack the Whip bronze in Downtown Chicago. Anyone interested in meeting up to discuss it, please e-mail me at:

Anonymous said...

You are so right that I can barely stand reading your opinion without roaring. I couldn't agree more. That (Master's) space on the end of West Federal Street, near the Valley Hotel, should be used for a new high-rise/three-four story housing complex, with small commercial/retail spaces in the front.

We are setting ourselves up to become a "lunchtime only" city. We need to redesign Youngstown enforcing new urbanistic ideals and pedestrian-friendly urban planning! Someone should right a letter to Jay, our city planner (D'Avignon), or we should submit a written plea with several hundred signatures supporting housing and commerce over micro-courthouses.

Another great possibilty for that site would be another theatre, with housing and offices aloft. With that, the far West End could become a mini theatre district, down near Powers and the DeYor Center/The Flad-Beecher Pavilion.

What do you all think of the parking lot that's floating there at the moment?

Rick Rowlands said...

If a building is placed in the Masters block where will visitors to the Mahoning Valley History Center park?

Couldn't we advocate developing existing vacant buildings (Stambaugh Building) before advocating more new construction?