Friday, November 30, 2007

to stay, or not to stay? - the state's façade

The State Theater has been a fixture on West Federal Street for about 80 years. Its beautiful terra cotta front has welcomed generations of Youngstowners from its days as a movie theater to its days as a rock venue.

The footprint of the building looks like a wine bottle. Narrow along the Federal Street entrance, the deeper you go into the building, the space widens out into a full auditorium along Boardman Street.

Here is a picture from the summer, before the outside renovation of the Davis Building (in red) to the right. The State Theater is in the middle, and the Armed Forces Building is on the left.

However, the State has been abandoned for over a decade now and like similar buildings in our downtown, the roof was not secured properly by the current owners, the elements have found their way inside, and the building's interior has deteriorated.

A similar story appears over and over again in many of the city's historical buildings - lack of simple investment leads to massive internal destruction which leads to public tax dollars footing the bill for the building's demolition.

Admittedly, the main part of the State Theater is now in bad shape. Due to its current condition, the main question has been not if it will come down, but when it will come down.

A public meeting held last January brought people together to discuss the future of the building, and perhaps more importantly, the future of its historic façade.

A story ran in yesterday's Business Journal chronicling the future demolition of the State Theater and the Armed Forces Building. It is the position of many people in the community that a compromise can be reached to save the historic façade, even if these buildings are to be demolished.

But within the story came this troubling comment:

"While MS (the engineering company) will try to save the façade on the State, that may not be possible, Pierko warned. He sees the demolition efforts similar to those taken to raze the Higbee Building. The Higbee façade could not be saved and reused."

- - -

Keep a watch on this project, folks.

For there may be more to this story than meets the eye . . .

Again, let's check out the view from Federal Street. Three buildings each built in separate decades, with what I believe have no load bearing structures attaching the adjacent properties.

Now, here is that same view, but from the rear of the buildings:

It might be hard to see, but there are whole buildings behind the Davis and Armed Forces Buildings, but very little behind the façade of the State Theater.

Similar to the the set of any theater around the world, the façade is almost like a piece of set design. It's a 1920s advertisement to draw people off the main drag and into the theater.

The terra cotta here is in great shape, not chipping or falling down. It seems to be somewhat self-supporting and almost free-standing in its current configuration.

That being said, no one in the Business-Journal story reported that the façade will definitely be destroyed. They still may try to save it.

But it's interesting to see what is actually behind all of these buildings.

- - -

The possible demolition of the State's façade brings up another really interesting point, and that is, there are sometimes many solutions between one extreme and another. Everything versus nothing.

It's possible that with proper support and care during the demolition of the rest of the building, the entire façade could remain intact.

But looking across the world, we can see other projects that preserve their architecture using alternate methods.

Along Beale Street in downtown Memphis (I have seen this done there with nicer buildings but couldn't gank the photos) the façade was supported, the building removed from behind it, and the structures were then illuminated at night.

In Montreal, Quebec this saved façade was integrated into the future design of a restaurant. It separated outdoor seating from the sidewalk.

And even in the space where the Armed Forces Building is set to definitely disappear, techniques can be utilized to artifically maintain the streetscape, perhaps on a semi-permanent basis.

This is Piazza del Campo in Sienna, Italy. It's not a booming metropolis, as Sienna is a modest city of about 60,000 people. But during construction, they placed these mesh screens which simulates the historical architecture. As more buildings are taken out from the continuity of the frontage along Federal Street, can this be a viable alternative to leaving a space between buildings?

It will be interesting to watch how this all unfolds. Will we keep a downtown full of character, or will we lose many of the references to our past that makes our downtown so unique?

Keep a watch on this project, folks.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

new gallery downtown explodes with excitement

The opening reception for The Inaugural Exhibition of Art Youngstown was a packed house, filled with the young and old, professionals and amateurs, observers and creators - all buzzing with energy.

Boy, was their gallery space on West Federal in downtown stuffed with supporters. It was hard to breathe, yet along move to the back of the building to get to the baked ziti.

Room upon room, the gallery was filled with oil paintings, sculpture, photography, video instillations, watercolors - from 76 local artists in total. I even saw a childrens book on sale featuring Jay Williams, what I believe was titled "the boy who would become mayor".

The mission of Art Youngstown is "making art accessible to all." This collection could be viewed by any person who walked in the door.


As the rooms cleared towards the end of the evening, it was possible to take some photos highlighting the diversity of art produced by the Youngstown community.

From the brochure of the opening night . . .

The thing always happens that you really believe in;
and the belief in a thing makes it happen.

Here is a photo of the people who put it all together:

Due to the overwhelming response of the opening weekend, the show will have extended gallery hours from
12pm to 8pm on Saturday, December 1st
25 West Federal Street

Some of the remaining pieces are available for purchase.

Check it out if you have the time, and contact Art Youngstown for more information on how you can become involved.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

framing the davis question

the question is: when will we able to see more pictures?

well, NOW!

Since our last update, the roof has been replaced, the interior wooden framing has been constructed, and the walls have been sandblasted.

Here's a picture from across the alley showing the 2nd floor roof going in. Notice the 15 year old tree to the right on top of the state theater. It provides nice shade for the roofers.

Here's another perspective of the open roof, but from the ground floor looking up. The first and second floors are framed in such a way that the picture is taken from the future two-story lobby.

Going up to the third floor along the newly-built steps . . .

One can see this panaramic shot from the third floor.

With light streaming throught the back windows that will lead to the rooftop terrace.

Here is a picture of the walls and interior brickwork before sandblasting

and after sandblasting.

Finally, a shot from the roof at dusk, peering down Federal Street. Check out those beautiful medians.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

starting the holiday off the right way

oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

I love thanksgiving.

it's my favorite holiday. I even like it a bit more than Halloween, Festivus, and General William Tecumseh Sherman's birthday.

let's review my thanksgiving list . . .

- picked up friend from airport visiting from foreign country. CHECK
- explained to friend upon disembarquement that they are responsible for a dish at the table from their homeland, scaring them immensely. CHECK
- packed dirty sweatshirt for morning football. CHECK
- attended the stage

woah, still need to do that last one. you too?

well, be at the oakland at 8pm wednesday night to see another installment of THE STAGE!

last time was a blast, you can check out a review here, which contains videos.

looking for new friends, or a unique way to rekindle old friendships?

the stage is a perfect venue.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

our cities are for people

I was walking down the street in Baltimore the other day and saw this on the side of a building calling out to me

we must hold fast to the realization
that our cities are for people
and unless they work well for people
they are not working well at all.

as the people of the world learn
what is possible, they will demand
that their cities be geared
to the humane and the beautiful.

- - -

what are we making our downtown to be?

Monday, November 19, 2007

why would we want uniformity?

During the recent West Federal Street median removal debate of 2007, a local talk show host asserted that one relevant reason to alter the streetscape of the current configuration is to get the entire street to look like the already-altered East Federal Street.

My friends, this is simply not a good reason.

Carbon copying a lackluster streetscape throughout the downtown is not the best idea.

- - -

To review this arguement, let's take a pictoral stroll downtown - a downtown that is everyone's neighborhood.

Here is the current setup on West Federal. Mature trees along the side and in the median, brickwork on the sidewalk, well-proportioned public spaces. Nice.

Here is a redone part of the street as exists today:

Let's analyze what's wrong with this picture . . .

Orange barrel in place of where tree should be. Dead tree, or at least a tree with no leaves (this picture was taken in July) to the right. Small uncomfortable cheap-looking bench between the orange barrel and dead tree. Fire hydrants surrounded by concrete. Akward diagonal parking. Excessive concrete.

On another trip to downtown, an elderly woman with a very adorable czech accent who lives downtown saw that I was taking pictures and pulled me over to this tree next to the Reality Building.

"This tree is dying," she said. "No one takes care of these trees. I wish someone would care."

Here is a series of these benches next to the Huntington Bank building. Some of these benches, still years after their original installation, have stickers attached to them from the original purchase.

And another good one, a sign in the place of where a tree once stood. A beautiful and thoughtful replacement.

Looking left, looking right, in front of Silver's Vogue Shop and Barley's. A sea of concrete expanding for quite a distance. Very little green, very little comfortability. Ugh.

And finally, these permanent electrical units were recently placed in a few areas along the sidewalk. Big, obtrusive set-ups, that may well have a functional purpose, but were designed and planned poorly. Was this the only alternative?

Do these photos, which have just been presented, give the appearance of a community that cares about how its number one main avenue though the downtown looks?

As people from around the country and the world come to our university and the Youngstown Business Incubator, is this what we want to show them?

To me, it seems like there are two "big picture" concepts, battling each other for the future design of the downtown.

In one case, you have a concrete-heavy, minimal green, excessive parking infrastructure that caters to big-time events and their demands.

In the other case, you have a scalable, living place that is attractive to potential downtown residents and successful business people.

- - -

And of course, like many arguements, perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle.

But in my opinion, we are unfortunately drifting towards the first case, when we should be working hard to reach the second one.

- - -

two concluding thoughts.

First, the current setup of the already redone part of Federal Street needs to be corrected instead of replicated.

The dead trees need to be removed. Life needs to come back to the streets.

Who is responsible for the maintenance of Federal Plaza?

Second, we as a community need to have a serious discussion, with all stakeholders at the table (especially the public), about what we want our downtown to become.

We want the people who have made the personal investments in the coffee places and the restaurants years ago, when they had a vision and very few would support them, to succeed and expand without interruption.

The time for this discussion is now. And the new city council, along with the public, needs to work together to plan out their vision and actionable steps for the next several years.

so, what do you think Youngstown?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"we dedicate this park to the citizens of youngstown"

these words were recently broadcast to the crowd assembled for the dedication of Common Ground, a new park in the city presented by the non-profit group Treez Please.

The dedication was a community event - with food, walking tours, events for kids, and demonstrations by other local non-profits spread throughout the afternoon at the corner of Broadway and Henderson on the North Side.

First Book Mahoning Valley was there, distributing new books to children as the sounds of acoustic guitar filled the air. Click here to see the new blog for First Book Mahoning Valley.

Citizens present could also learn about the county's pilot program on leaf collection composting (bags provided).

Kids were making bird seed/peanut butter/pine cone bird feeders, halloween treats, decorated-t-shirts . . . lots of kids and lots of paint.

Here are some t-shirts hung up to dry in the devil's strip:


cookies, more food and more food.

Rusty Waters was there as well, selling some of their Yo/Cle/Pit merchandise.

- - -

So, when is the next project of Treez Please where you can get involved?

Saturday (17 Nov 2007) at noon on the south side of Youngstown, volunteers will be needed to plant trees along median strips on Euclid Boulevard (south of Midlothian). Here's a map to the site.

Please arrive by noon with gloves and a shovel, if possible. Planting, watering, spreading mulch are some of the involved activities.

They are planting 9 Celebration maple trees in the devil strip on the first block.
Large trees, large root balls, 2' caliper from Colonial Gardens.
Planting will be on the first block of Euclid off Midlothian, look for the yellow flags.

You can also go here to request more information.

Treez Please . . . Let's Grow Youngstown!

Friday, November 16, 2007

oh why lord, can't you take me instead?

extreme sadness at the Shout Youngstown blog tonight.

the beloved albino neighborhood squirrel has died.

here is a picture of our dear friend:

So this bastard hawk came over and took out my one buddy in the neighborhood.

Mr. Hawk smothered him, and then tore out his innards (photo not uploaded).

Thus, it's payback time. Avenge my sadness.

You can join the facebook group to remember this saint here.

(to acoustic guitar)
"Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven . . ."

Fight the good fight.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

remaining relevant

Thanks to Mike G. from for placing online Mayor Williams' comments at the Northeast Ohio Regional Day on October 30th.

Friday, November 09, 2007

a look inside the stage

the most recent production of The Stage took place during the halloween weekend and it rocked.

never been to one at the Oakland? care to see what takes place?

"just get up there" is the main vibe behind the stage, as eloquently described in this week's interview with Sherry Linkon on her program at wysu.

This last stage had a ton of different acts - 17 to be exact - from music to comedy to magic to live painting to a fashion show and a costume competition. for 5 bucks you get all that grassroots culture and talent, free food, and a gallery opening - mixed into a single night.

this post will share a few photos, and 8 movies from a variety of acts that night.

first off, in the gallery was the artwork of Jason VanHoose who assembled a collection of paintings, sculpture, and other mixed media. the buff was in this room too. This piece on its side, was composed of nails, bottles, horse hair, dog bones, and chains (in no particular order).

at some point in the night was the the costume contest,

and a shot taken at the end of the fashion show,

and a gorilla playing with the Realtime Digimob.

As you go through the next set of videos, check out the dude painting throughout. That's Jess Adkins taking this, a blank canvas . . .

. . . and transforming it 3 hours later into a work of art. Go to the end of this post to see the end result.

the night started out with this duo, who moved into a Radiohead cover.

Then this family of brothers got on stage, with this Elvis song performed among the others . . .

YSU's award winning professor Dr. Ray taught us some science about the atmosphere, inserting some infomation about silicon and an implicit boob joke.

then another band, picture progressing top right . . .

this next act had a tuba, a trumpet, and a handsaw all on stage at once. I love this video and the energy at all extremes of the picture.

then a costume contest, and standing on top of someone laying on a bed of nails

Eventually a truly wicked fashion show by Ohio Vintage took place, with awesome live music by Starfish on the Battlefield.

And finally the Realtime Digimob in all its glory:

as promised, here is the final piece by Jess Adkins after paining for 3 hours.

whew! was a night. well, when the next one is going to take place, all you peeps from northeast ohio can come and join in the fun.