Friday, March 30, 2007

"Mobtown, USA...

...Separating Fact from Fiction."

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society's Young Leaders Advisory Board presented a panel discussion this evening addressing the issue of organized crime in the area. It is no secret that Youngstown's history has been largely affected by organized crime. But is Youngstown's history as you've come to know it really accurate?

Moderated by Dr. Fred Viehe, Professor of History at YSU, the discussion aimed to inform the audience of various aspects of organized crime from its beginnings (in ancient times) through the modern day.
The most interesting topics were discussed by Jonathan Kinser as he presented a portion of his own research into the local trials of famed lawyer Clarence Darrow (Born and raised in Kinsman, OH, Darrow was involved in many notable cases, especially the Scopes Monkey Trial). In his later years, Darrow was involved in the locally famous Munsene trials.

To learn more about the Munsene Trials, check out this write-up about Jonathan Kinser and his research here.

It was an interesting view into our history and our old reputation as "Mobtown, USA."


As an aside, it is interesting to note that James Munsene was the owner of several local clubs including the Hollyhock Club in Warren where a young man named Perry Como was a building a name for himself.

Unfortunately, the Hollyhock Club's reputation eventually led to its demise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

a new bishop, and a new blogger

A sea of priests and guests, 38 bishops, 3 cardinals, and representatives from Rome with papal decrees descended downtown today, to install George Murry, S.J., PhD, as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.

Bishop Murry was born in Camden, New Jersey, attained his PhD in American Cultural History from George Washington University, was Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and then Bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands before his new appointment in Northeast Ohio.

The Diocese of Youngstown split off from the Diocese of Cleveland in 1943, and encompasses Mahoning, Stark, Portage, Trumbull, Columbiana, and Ashtabula counties - home to more than 1.2 million people, and more than 240,000 catholics.

St. Columba's Cathedral is actually very modern and is the 4th structure in that location (dating back to 1847), as the previous gothic one was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1954.

The new arms of Bishop Murry are shown below, incorporating many interesting symbols. The green arrowheads represent the Native Americans who once inhabited the Mahoning Valley, the green cross represents the connection to the Diocese of Cleveland, the wavy white bar represents the Mahoning River which flows through the city, and the anvil represents the importance of industry in the community.

How labor is infused into so many aspects of this region is amazing . . .

The entire 2 hour ceremony was broadcast live on the local nbc affiliate, and was actually entertaining, with live play-by-play and color commentary by people back in the studio. You can watch the entire ceremony here, as well as an hour-long interview by local news media with Bishop Murry here.

During the ceremony, Bishop Murry was handed his new crozier, or shepard's staff, by the archbishop of Cincinatti. The staff was outfitted with a strip of steel, to signify his connection to Youngstown. Now that's interesting.

And as he left the altar for the first time to meet some of the people in the audience, the first person he met at the front of the church was Jay Williams - mayor of Youngstown. A nice touch, in the spirit of community.

- - -

And our blogging community in Youngstown is growing as well.

Earlier this afternoon in Rome, a new blog named Youngstown Seminarian was created.

Written by a John Sheridan, who is currently studying in Italy, he hopes his blog will "show how the Catholic Church can be involved and has been involved in the redevelopment [of Youngstown] . . . to examine the history of some of the parishes in the diocese, especially in Youngstown."

- - -

welcome to the city of Youngstown.

welcome to the Youngstown blogosphere.

best wishes to you both.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

is the grass greener in glasgow?

Today's entry from Chris Varley's Tech Futures blog explores the writings of Joel Kotkin's The New Geography, which remarkably is currently piled with Manuel Castells' The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective and Lewis Wolpert's Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast on top of my computer monitor.

Within the post, he speculates on the rise and fall of cities as times and technology change, comparing Cleveland to other industrial powerhouses in the United Kingdom. Here is one exerpt:

"There is much in particular we can learn from Glasgow, which seems to be about 10-20 years ahead of us on the curve. I don’t mean by that statement that they are better than we are, or even that they got their “act” together faster or better than we have. Time takes its toll and moves at its own pace in different places during different periods."

To explore that idea from an urban planning perspective, here are a few pictures of Glasgow from April of last year.

What lessons can we learn?

- - -

Outside the Gallery of Modern Art sits this statue of the Duke of Wellington. For some reason, people started placing a traffic cone on top of the statue, which was promptly removed. After a while of finding more and more traffic cones on top of the statue, authorities just decided to leave it up there.

And now he has a scarf too.

Here is a sculpture right next to the public bus station:

My new theory about predicting the "cities of the future" is that people will be attracted to cities where the central bus station does not make you feel like you have been dropped off in the middle of nowhere, or worse, a war zone. I had to switch greyhounds in Akron once, a good distance from the downtown. (in other news, due to funding cutbacks, Youngstown's bus system is losing its night service, its service to sister city Warren, and the downtown trolley. I wonder how many people will have to quit their jobs due to this predicament)

lesson one : art can be whimsical, even if it is functional

- - -

As a stranger in a strange land, I needed to find my way around the city.

Here's a map kiosk on John Street, with all the color-coded points of interest in downtown Glasgow:

Looking further down John Street (aptly named) . . .

lesson two : proper signage expands our connectivity to downtown

- - -

Not looking for heroin but instead for a place to nap, I strolled into the Glasgow Necropolis.

And inside, sprawled around the greenspace, was an assortment of figures:

and lesson three : greenspace adjacent to downtown, even when filled with dead people, is a welcome addition

Monday, March 26, 2007

our incubator: designing & thinking outside the box

An insightful interview with Jim Cossler, the Chief Evangelist of the Youngstown Business Incubator, was posted a few hours ago on the Defend Youngstown blog. You can read the entire interview here. A few of the most interesting highlights are included below, supplemented with some visuals of the buildings involved:

"YBI is currently at 105% capacity, because we have actually had to give up some of our conference space to accommodate the phenomenal growth of our firms. We have even been forced to use our entire basement here. The new center, which is being built immediately adjacent to our facility, will allow us to move some of our most successful firms out into it, freeing some space for a healthy list of startup ventures that have been eager to move in and join us."

"Beyond this fully funded project, we have another $2.75 million in secured funds for further development within the block. At this moment, I believe that we will be directing those dollars toward the renovation of the Semple Building, which sits between the new Center site and Home Savings & Loan. The Semple project can be completed by mid to late 2008, and will house YBI graduates and other tech companies that we might attract to Youngstown."

"Further down the road, our sights our set on renovating the Wells Building and adding it to our campus. There is no time frame set for this project, as we have not yet secured the entire amount of funding necessary for it. Doing so will require very active and aggressive work from our entire local legislative delegation."

Check out the crown on this building. Hopefully the terra cotta will be saved and cleaned in the future.

We lost a beautiful facade during the (see below) for the Youngstown Technology Center - the first expansion project Cossler mentions for the emerging Youngstown Technopole - which will now open in March 2008 instead of December 2007 because the review committee rejected the initial six proposals. The second attempt at the bidding will begin soon.

As we say a final goodbye to pieces of our history, piece by piece, who knows if there will be more beauty in what follows in its place?

- - -

What next, then?

Assuming all of these ideas come to fruition (the Semple & the Wells renovations) what should be the next step in the distant, but rapidly approaching future?

- - -

One problem the incubator has right now is its connectivity to the university.

Not many computer science undergrads are familiar with what's occuring downtown. In fact, when does entrepreneurism ever get thrown into the faces of the students?

Perhaps that future step needs to be even closer in proximity to the students, by incorporaing a new building directly on campus - creating a contant message to everyone at the university that innovation and entrepreneurism happens in Youngstown.

I can see it right now, at the corner of Rayen and Wick, right where the ugly parking lot sits across from the Main Library and south of the current location of the business school.

- - -

Recently a design competition was held to build the deuxième Centre Georges-Pompidou in the city of Metz, France. You can see the winning entry here, with its sweeping views of the beautiful cathedral in Metz.

It's my favorite church in Europe - and a great place to sleep under if you miss the 3am bus back to your apartment (another story).

One of the losing designs however, was created by the architect Dominique Perrault. It looks like an open box.

So what about incorporating this open-box design into a building that is supposed to represent out-of-the-box thinking?

Let's borrow this design for a moment and have some fun with envisioning what can be inside:

I can imagine four stories within this new building.

1st floor - space for companies accepted into the incubator network.

2nd floor - space for the ramped up and highly improved computer science department at the university, including office space for professors, research faculty, and graduate students.

3rd floor - space for enterprenurial classrooms. Each classroom will contain the presentation and multimedia equipment necessary to hold a new series of classes - classes required for every business student, engineering student, industrial artist student, and computer science student at the university. Classes that mix all of these majors into teams competing or working on select projects with applications in industry.

4th floor - that's for the readers of this blog to answer.

In the comments section, please contribute to what else you believe this building needs . . .

Friday, March 23, 2007

the davis building & this blog


That's the year when the John R. Davis building was constructed along Federal Street downtown.


That's the year when the building will be completely renovated, after being vacant for twenty years.

And this blog, I Will Shout Youngstown, has been chosen to be the official source for all information - photos, construction practices, drawings - during the reconstruction process.

Much thanks to the Sweet Jenny Land Company (very cool name) LLC for agreeing to let this blog bring you, the readers, every step in its resurrection . . . from the inside out. This project can serve as an example to others that saving older buildings is indeed possible.

To the left of the Davis building is the State Theater (we're hoping to save the facade of this one, but it's not a done deal) and to the right of the Davis building is the landmark Downtown Draught House.

The whole deal is almost done between Sweet Jenny and the CIC, with the financing completed, and just a few lawyerly-bits to work out. They hope renovation will begin on June 1st, with completion of the project by December 17th.

The first floor will be leased to private business, the second floor will be 2,200 sq ft for the architectural studios of Ronald Cornell Faniro Architects, and the third floor will be housing. The total cost of the project is expected to be around $300,000.

Here is another great example of some people stepping up, and making a difference in the downtown. Kudos to them.

And to all those who were calling for the building's demolition just a few months ago on the downtown message boards, well, you suck.

Long live the dreamers. Long live rebirth.

and remember to check back here for updates on the building's progress.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

thoughts on monday's louie free show

Tonight I went to the website of local talk show host and vegan extraordinare Louie Free, whose studios were recently moved from the "double-wide on the east side" to a space downtown in the old Phar-Mor Building, now named 20 Federal Place. The new studio faces federal street, allowing the public to look onto Louie and his guests throughout the week.

Lisa Simpson: Oh, the earth is the best! That's why I'm a vegetarian.
Jesse: Heh. Well, that's a start.
Lisa Simpson, well, I was thinking of going vegan.

Jesse: I'm a level 5 vegan -- I won't eat anything that casts a shadow.

The lineup for Monday's show looked interesting, with interviews with Bernard Marinelli, owner of the Core nightclub downtown; Betram de Souza, lead editorial writer for the Vindicator; and Father Ed Noga, pastor of the beautiful St. Patrick's Catholic Church on the southside.

You can listen to the show here, archived on louie's website. Seriously, it's maybe my favorite louie show I've heard since he's been broadcasting . . . nice information, as well as discussion throughout. Because the lineup, I actually did something I've never done while listening to a radio show:

I took notes.

- - -

The first interview featured Mr. Marinelli speaking primarily on the status of entertainment downtown, how erroneous perceptions of the city affect his business interests, and the necessity for additional effort from city officials to engage and assist downtown business owners. These downtown business owners, are in effect like frontiersmen, the first to see opportunity in a difficult environment as they attempt to make their roots more permanent.

Here's a few suggestions that came to mind as I was listening to Bernard speak:

- When I pick up a ticket from the Chevy Center, usually there is an advertisement for or something like that, but why can't there be things on the back of the ticket like coupons for downtown drink specials, reduced cover charges, and general advertisements for the various downtown businesses? Develop further cross-promotional activities.
- Hire an additional person within the Department of Economic Development that has existing ties and experience promoting to the sub 35 years of age demographic. Sometime you need youth to speak to the youth.
- Explore new ideas, like ipod dj nights, on certain nights of the week.
- Before the time when a cover is charged, have lessons in topics such as breakdancing and salsa dancing. I wanna learn how to do a ninja freeze.
- Encourage musicians to hang out downtown, perhaps with financial incentives, to encourage street life and pull people from the Chevy Center.

- - -

Soon afterwards, one caller made an interesting statement about how successive generations of local people have rejected the downtown. His astute comment was that due to their remembrance of the downtown as a thriving place filled with theaters, mass transit, and restaurants in the 50s and 60s, watching its deep slide from the 70s through the 90s has left a permanent mark on the minds of those generations.

To me it was interesting because many people I know frame the current re-development of the downtown in a generational context, in that it takes some generations to die or move away in order for progressive generations to push forward.

I don't really support this view, nor do I want to support this view. Maybe I believe that an older dog has value, and it can additionally learn new tricks.

The generational comment is fascinating though, as I grew up in the generation that never experienced the glory days, never rode on the Wildcat at Idora Park, never went shopping in the Uptown, and never saw miles upon miles of steel mills belch their smoke into the air. I was a teenager in the mid/late 90s when the ONLY places to go downtown were Cedar's and the Draught House, and that's where we hung out. The rest of the downtown was like an empty playground for us to explore, with all the equipment still there but nobody enjoying it. And within the last three years, there has been great improvement downtown, but there is still much to do.

The simple fact is, for our generation, the current state of downtown is the best we have ever seen it.

But due to experiencing other cities in our country and around the world, we see its potential on what it could be - not what it once was.

- - -

Later in the show (about 2/5th into the mp3 file) Mr. de Souza and Fr. Noga contributed to a discussion spread across many threads:

Issues such as social inequity across the region, the analogy of the mahoning valley as one house with many rooms, the fears of annexation based on lack of information and unwillingness to come to the table, the need for an emerging african-american middle class in the region, uniting across different faiths for community activism, joint economic development districts, cutbacks in regional bus service, media stations partnering together to sponsor downtown events, challenges for the inner-city school district, expansion of the metro library system, the italian fest coming back downtown, redefining old institutions, getting workers to stay downtown after 5pm, and the success of zero tolerance.

lots of stuff . . . lots of stuff to chew on.

- - -

Speaking of chewing, at one point louie expressed his frustration with not knowing what communion tastes like.

Here's the Shout Youngstown suggestion: when christmas comes around louie, order some oplatki from any local catholic church. Oplatki are pieces of bread, about the size of a greeting card, compressed with religious scenes for the holiday season. The taste EXACTLY the same as communion.

You can break them up, place em in a bowl, and even dip them in vegan cheese. That way, the communion won't serve the same purpose of a Tostido.

- - -

seriously though, monday was a really good show. Bloggers from throughout northeast ohio and residents of the valley from both the city and suburb can learn a lot about the pertinent local issues by listening to this recording.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the pillars of a community

The Defend Youngstown blog posted a great interview today with Anthony Kobak, Chief Planner of the City of Youngstown and one of the driving forces during the Youngstown 2010 planning process. You can find the interview here.

Defend Youngstown's work brings a human face to some of the pillars in the region. His interviews reinforce the notion that government is, well, just a bunch of people at the core, and not some abstract object.

- - -

Since my posting yesterday about the Toffler speech inside Stambaugh Auditorium, I have had a few requests about additional info on the building and its wonderful pillars.

The Indiana limestone, oak, and marble structure was inspired by the Pantheon in Paris, and was designed by Helmle and Corbett Architects from New York City. Its opening concert was held on December 6th, 1926 and featured the humorist Will Rodgers.

Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and recently Jerry Seinfeld have all performed in this historic building. Its rooms throughout the structure are available for rent, and is a great place for a wedding reception. In fact, here are a few photos of the place when I was one of the groomsmen for a good friend who had his wedding there: