Thursday, December 28, 2006

4 questions for the kidd

He's a successful entrepreneur, a talk radio megastar, and a hardcore pittsburgh steelers fan. (2 outta 3 redeeming qualities ain't bad). Now Phil Kidd, creator of the "Defend Youngstown" movement, has agreed to answer a few questions about the city he is passionate about.

This little "question and answer feature" may become a semi-regular feature on this blog, depending on the response. Please leave a comment what you think of his answers, or who else you would like to see interviewed.

SY: A recent Business Journal article mentions that your heart belongs to Youngstown. Was there a singular event to make you begin to feel this way, or was there a gradual transition that you can further elaborate about?

PK: When I first came to Youngstown as an undergraduate at Youngstown State nearly 10 years ago, I was instantly attracted to the presence of campus and to the upper north side. As time passed, I began to experience and appreciate the Valley as a whole - its depth and layout, its history, and its tremendous sense of community. When I left for the military, I never lost touch with the people I knew from Youngstown or the progress the city was making. Youngstown had left an impression on me like few other places have or could.

I became extremely intrigued by the Youngstown 2010 project and upon leaving the service, I had to make a decision as to where I was going to continue my life. Seeing that the city seemed to be formulating a legitimate plan for its future, I made the decision to return. The decision turned out to be a life changer.

I attended almost every Youngstown 2010 meeting until the plan was officially finalized in 2005. During this time, I met a number of great "Youngstown-Americans", however, one in particular really impressed me. His name was Jay Williams. Some of your readers may recognize the name. When Jay decided to run for Mayor of Youngstown, I realized the imperativeness of the election. We fought incredibly hard to get him elected and, to the great benefit of the city, Jay was overwhelmingly elected Mayor late last year. This solidified my commitment to Youngstown.

I suppose my love to the city has much to do with being a native of Pittsburgh. I view Youngstown as smaller version of the Steel City in the sense that it matches the same values and "realness" attributes that shaped me as an individual. Youngstown is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of town with down-to-earth people who understand the full spectrum of life because they are exposed to some of the best and the worst aspects of life almost daily. In my opinion, that is the real beauty of it all. Despite its problems, the good people it attracts or selects are people who choose to fight the good fight in life. To top it off, Youngstown is also a city that is open to all kinds of possibilities with amenities that many other cities can only dream of. These amenities could only have been provided by being a successful city twice our size a half century ago.

By good fortune, we have preserved these assets well and are rebuilding a new Youngstown around them. It’s a beautiful situation and we are certainly on our way, however, the city has many battles ahead and we need people committed to the fight. I’m a fighter and a believer.

That is why I love Youngstown.

SY: Where do you see downtown Youngstown in ten years?

PK: First off, let me say that I think 10 years is pretty realistic time period to begin to evaluate our progress. I think a lot of people say, “Well, I hear about positive things going on in the city but I don’t really see much change.” It’s a difficult comment to address because much of the “important” things that are happening in the city are more groundwork, city planning-oriented stuff. What we are talking about is building an infrastructure or a model, if you will, in which future administrations can continue to build upon. Obviously, in Youngstown, that requires a great deal of effort because we’ve conducted business pretty poorly for the last 3 decades. So, that, in and of itself, is enough work for any Mayor.

However, when you have severe, pressing social and economic issues that must also be addressed at the same time, you have a complicated situation. But to that end – and this is as big an aspect as any– is our change in mentality or approach in our elected leadership within the city (Jay Williams) and beyond (Tim Ryan). In many respects, this is uncharted territory for Youngstown. We are building as we go. It’s like laying railroad track with the train on the track, moving forward, waiting for the next piece to be laid.

A plan like Youngstown 2010 (which is really in an infancy stage) is a bold new approach to city planning. It’s a very comprehensive and very goal-oriented plan (and now gaining national attention/respect) yet one that is not going to have immediate results. We are essentially shrinking Youngstown, restructuring large parts of it and building on existing strengths. The idea is that Youngstown will become a leaner, greener city, capable of more control over the complex urban issues it faces. Again, this means very good things in time but nothing you’ll see overnight because the changes are gradual but permanent. These changes, in turn, hope to spur the interest of business and industry (among others) across the nation who may consider conducting business in Youngstown if they view the city as seriously committed to reestablishing its community and economy through action.

The target right now, however, is the downtown, and in 5 years you’re going to see some dramatic changes that will make it a true destination in the Valley. In the past 3 years, we have seen the reopening of Federal St, establishment of the Chevy Centre, and an influx of new businesses and restaurants. Within the next 3yrs, we’ll see the opening of 3 major residential towers (Realty, Wick, and Erie Terminal) which will mean you’ll have a mix of professionals and students living in the downtown. In addition, we will see a $250 million community built in Smoky Hollow. That essentially solidifies the downtown as a viable, residential area which is an incredibly important destination.

This will be followed by more retail to accommodate these residents as well as the growing number of people who visit entertainment venues downtown. YSU’s commitment to the Youngstown 2010 plan will also be well underway with the establishment of the business college and the extension of Hazel St (which will serves as the “Federal St to the North”). Establishing true “connectivity” between YSU and the downtown provides limitless options for both parties.

These are major developments which will serve as the foundation of the revitalization effort within the city. Success of these projects will dictate further development of which I’m sure will include a heavy neighborhood focus and the “greening” of much more of the city. The next 10 years in Youngstown will be something this nation will take note of.

Q: If I gave you a check for $10,000 to be spent on the city of Youngstown, what would you spend it on and why?

PK: With $10,000, I’d sink every penny into surface lighting for our current structures downtown. Our downtown architecture is one of our greatest assets yet a number of beautiful buildings remain dark and seemingly hidden. It’s not a quick fix problem and, as I understand it, is one in which our downtown revitalization committee is attempting to remedy (finding funding to lay electric wiring underground to support the utility). However, I would contribute my $10,000 toward that effort.

Q: If you had one last meal left on this earth, and it had to be in Youngstown, what would it be?

Wow. You save the toughest question for last. I could probably think of 30 or 40 places worthy of a last meal in the city, however, my last meal would be a breakfast at the Golden Dawn. I’ve spent most of my time in Youngstown in or around the North Side, particularly the neighborhoods close to the Dawn.

I started there and I’d end it there.

I’d order my usual double order of 2 eggs, ham, and toast with a cup of coffee, write a note stating to “fight the good fight”, hand it to youngest kid in the room and walk out the door into oblivion.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

youngstown in USA TODAY's cover story

You know, a cool thing about being a blog is the ability to be quick and nimble, and to get the news to the public in a much quicker fashion than other media outlets.

The cover story in today's USA TODAY is about creative shrinkage in cities. Youngstown has a role in the article.

Youngstown, Ohio, is an exception. It has fully embraced its shrinkage. The population, now about 83,000, is less than half what it was when the steel industry collapsed in the 1970s.

"You look at the facts and come up with solutions," chief planner Anthony Kobak says. "The first step the city has come to terms with is being a small city."

Youngstown approved a 2010 plan. The goal: "A safe, clean, enjoyable, sustainable, attractive city," Kobak says.

The city long was better known for gritty steel mills than green space. Now that the mills are gone, there is plenty of space. With the help of a grant, Youngstown preserved 260 acres. It's targeting neighborhoods and redesigning them with the help of residents who stayed.

The city may let homeowners buy abandoned lots next door to create gardens. It's considering relaxing zoning rules to allow small horse farms or apple orchards. It's offering incentives for people to move out of abandoned areas.

"If you had three or four square blocks that at one time had 40 homes per block and now have maybe five homes total, we could relocate those people across the street and convert the vacant area into a large city park," Kobak says.Residents would live be living across from a park rather than being surrounded by decrepit homes and lots overgrown with weeds.

click here for the entire USA TODAY article.

click here to see how other bloggers have covered this topic.

click here for the webpage for the Youngstown 2010 program

+2 kudos to Anthony Kobak for making it big-time

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Gateway District

Story 1: Several weeks ago, the Market Street/Midlothian intersection was brought up as a potential site for improvement during a community design session in Boardman township. The following graphic identifies the amount of open space that occurs at this vital gateway between both the city and the township. The intersection proper is currently home to two vacant lots, a partially vacant bank that is 'For Lease' and Sami's Quick Stop. The northwest corner will soon be anchored by a new library to serve the area.

Story 2: Market Street is an important corrider that runs through both the City and the Township and both have identified this stretch as vital to their communities' future success.

Story 3: Mayor Williams has expressed interest in using Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDD) "as a way to promote regional, economic cooperation." He has recently appeared on the David Betras Show more than once discussing and debating this economic strategy and its ability to be used effectively in our city. JEDD's are a North East Ohio invention (by current mayor of Akron, Don Plusquellic) that allow a city to receive a portion of the taxes from the development on township property, without the threat of annexation. The result is a mutually agreeable development.

Conclusion: Now, like some Guy Ritchie movie, wouldn't it be great if all three of these story lines came crashing together to create one harmonious and enlightening ending? I see this intersection as having great potential for some sort of development. Do you agree? Maybe there is a different way to create a welcoming gateway into the city that is anchored by a brand new library.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

how pimp is this?

so over the weekend, did some random You Tube searches for our town.

Check out this fantastic video with the killer music . . .

And here is a collection of some nice downtown shots at night . . .

And here are some shots of the downtown catherdral after it was struck by lightning in 1954:

thanks to those who took the time to arrange these and upload them!

- - -

But it got me thinking, would the You Tube format be a good way to advertise our neighborhoods as part of the Youngstown 2010 neighborhood plan? We have the pictures of homes, maps, and now national recognition from the APA for the plan. All we need to do is assemble it, add some great background music, and post it online.

Speaking of which, maybe all the Youngstown 2010 broadcasts should be on You Tube in addition to the 45/49
and 2010 sites . . .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

croatian home, eat your heart out

tam nedaleko ot Rima
est gorod Palestrina.
zvezda pereferii, vsa v maslinah, stala nasha malina.
Ya vzmolilsa "Che cazzo! Io porca Madonna!"

These lyrics are crazy.

They were sung by Hutz in Cleveland last night. In case you missed the show, here are some clips of Gogol Bordello, the greatest band of the 21st century.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the waters of the mahoning

São as águas de mahoning
fechando o verão
É a promessa de vida
no teu coração

Friday, December 15, 2006

youngstown in nytimes magazine: an update

more and more blog writings just keep on popping up!

is a particularly interesting comment from one of the readers of Pittsblog:

Robert Bruegmann in his book "Sprawl" briefly discusses the growing suburban development around Youngstown, and notes that anti-sprawl zealots (like me, I suppose) point to these communities as evidence of all that is wrong with current development trends. Why are developers throwing up all these subdivisions when you the population of Youngstown proper keeps plummeting? The answer to Bruegmann is that the presence of these communities is the only thing that keeps the remaining middle and upper-middle class families from fleeing the metro area; and eventually, it is these people who are most likely to revitalize the city itself. It's definitely a different take on the relationships of suburbs to cities than many Pittsburgh residents maintain.

Photo courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society from Metropolis Magazine.

here is a review of blogs out there that reference the nytimes story:

"CEOs for Cities" - Chicago, IL
- - link - -

"Blogging Ohio" - various cities in Ohio
- - link - -

"BLDG BLOG" - Los Angeles, California
- - link - -

"Antirust" - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- - link - -

"Space, Place, and Identity: Brand Avenue"
- - link - -

"Resilience Science" - Montréal, Quebec
- - link - -

"Pittsblog: Learning from Youngstown" - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- - link - -

"Blueprint for New Orleans" - Lafayette, Louisiana
- - link - -

"Reurbanize Buffalo" - Buffalo, New York
- - link - -

"Downsizing Pittsburgh" - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- - link - -

I'll add more to this post as they come up . . .

Sunday, December 10, 2006

youngstown in today's nytimes sunday magazine

Hi readers,

As it is many people's custom to read this blog with their cup of coffee and pancakes religiously every sunday morning, maybe this weekend you'll want to do something a little different, and purchase a copy of sunday's new york times.

You see, every December the New York Times Magazine looks back over the year through the "mountain range" of intellectual concepts and ideas, and presents some of them to the world.

This year's version has this article about "Creative Shrinkage" and its subject is Youngstown and the 2010 plan.

some clips from the story:

"Few communities of 80,000 boast a symphony orchestra, two respected art museums, a university, a generously laid-out downtown and an urban park larger than Central Park. "

"[Jay] Williams’s strategy calls for razing derelict buildings, eventually cutting off the sewage and electric services to fully abandoned tracts of the city and transforming vacant lots into pocket parks."

"The city has also placed a moratorium on the (often haphazard) construction of new dwellings financed by low-income-housing tax credits and encouraged the rehabilitation of existing homes."

"Instead of trying to recapture its industrial past, Youngstown hopes to capitalize on its high vacancy rates and underused public spaces; it could become a culturally rich bedroom community serving Cleveland and Pittsburgh"

"Youngstown’s experiment has not gone unnoticed. Williams’s office has already fielded calls from officials in a few of the many American metropolitan areas."

- - -

As indicated in the blog entry before this one, there are many afforable houses to purchase in the city of superior craftsmanship and design. If you are looking to downsize from your house in the suburbs, or looking to invest in a quality housing stock, maybe a house in Youngstown is a great concept.

Our city is moving in the right direction, and we would like to have good people who enjoy good living to be our neighbors.

Care to join us?

Friday, December 08, 2006

inside the printz mansion

Had a jam-packed Saturday. Started with breakfast at the Golden Dawn, to the Chevy Center for the art show, out to Selah in Struthers for lunch in the bank vault, finished an interview with Miss Delvaux, watched the Penguins at the stadium, and hopped throughout downtown at night.

But nestled between the Walruss chat and the YSU football victory, was a tour of some Northside Homes. The neighbors around the 5th Avenue area are trying to construct some historical markers for this famed northside neighborhood of Youngstown, and this event - a tour of 6 homes with dinner at the Youngstown Club - was a fundraiser to try and improve the visual appearance of the neighborhood.

All of the photos of this blog entry are of one house - the Burt Printz Mansion located at 1819 Fifth Avenue, immediately north of Crandall Park. The house is now a bed a breakfast, and to my knowledge, the only operating place for lodging in the city limits.

The inside is a sight to behold . . . filled with ornate fireplaces and lighting, dark wood and white carpet, and modern conveniences throughout.

Below are pictures from the master suite upstairs. The bathrooms are huge throughout the five suites and rooms. This bathroom even has a fireplace (not pictured since I'm sitting on it to take the photo).

Also available to rent in the mansion are certain areas of the house and individual rooms. Pictured below is the billards room, followed by the media room - complete with a television the size of Lanterman's Mill.

Rooms at the Printz Mansion start at $100 a night. According to the information they distributed at the door, reservations can be made by calling 330-744-7746. I wonder if the companies downtown put up their guests here? Is there even a corporate rate at bed and breakfasts?

The amazing thing about these houses on the north side is the craftsmanship of the structure. These homes were built a century ago and will probably be around for a hundred more, as long as there are good people living inside of them. When you walk inside of them, they feel different. The wooden frames, the diverse brickwork, and the multiple fireplaces all make these houses feel completely different than a homes constructed less than 60 years ago.

In other Youngstown 2010 news, the North Heights neighborhood was recently added to the city's planning website. Contained all over the North Side are these incredible and historic homes, many at reasonable prices. Maybe the North Side will be the area where I purchase my first house.