Wednesday, December 31, 2008

you had me at "buttons"

she was a sight to behold.

her hair, flowing in the seasonably warm winter air.
her eyes, reflecting hundreds of illuminated windows.
her hand, reaching for my ten dollars.

and then, after a welcoming smile, I held tightly onto my First Night Youngstown button all night long.

- - -

???? ha.

now you too can share in the experience.

First Night Youngstown 2008.

excellent write-up of tonight's festivities by Stagie here.
official website with maps and schedule here.
review of last year's festivities here.

some new choice venues this year:
- The Burt Building, origin of the good humor bar and future home of the new downtown history museum will be open for tours.
- The Davis Building, the second oldest structure downtown and recently renovated structure will be hosting "rock and/or roll" bands.
- The soon-to-be-renamed Chevy Center, with indoor ice skating open to the public.

again, this post here is an excellent recap of what is going down.

if you have never been to a First Night Youngstown, they are actually pretty fun - lots of diversity in the types of talent, and a large number of performers will keep you jumping from place to place.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

northeast ohio football coach diaspora

from an article in the Wall Street Journal:
"Ohio is a state in a deep recession, laid low by the decline of manufacturing. And yet, the Buckeye state is to college football coaching what Silicon Valley is to technology: It's where the brightest minds come from.

Less than 4% of the country's population lives in Ohio, but 15% of college football's major-conference head coaches were born there -- the most for any state. And this volume is more than matched by quality: 14 of the last 18 teams that have made it to the national title game have had head coaches with Ohio connections."

"Although all of Ohio is a hotbed for football, the industrial Northeast is where the majority of coaches come from.

Mr. Meyer is from Ashtabula, near the Pennsylvania border. Mr. Stoops and his brothers Mike, Mark and Ron -- all of whom are in coaching -- are from Youngstown, an hour south of Cleveland (Nebraska's Mr. Pelini, also from Youngstown, was a Stoops family friend growing up). LSU's Mr. Miles and Ohio State's Mr. Tressel, last year's title-game coaches, hail from Elyria and Berea, respectively, two towns along Lake Erie."
hey, don't forget the famous players as well . . .

Here's Youngstown Ursuline alum Ed O'Neil speaking with Dave about his playing days at Youngstown University:

The former social studies teacher (also at Youngstown Ursuline) looks like he's getting some money back next year:

Friday, December 26, 2008

florence at the height of the renaissance

came across this very fascinating discussion on the radio today.

It featured talk show host Louie Free (broadcasting downtown from his street-level studio) and the very successful artist Jim Pernotto (whose sprawling art studio is located downtown atop Silver's Vogue)

Deeper into the interview discussing "art and survival", Louie asks Jim what it's like to be working as an artist in a location which lacks the size and amenities of somewhere like New York City, a location where the problems of crime and a shrinking population are pertinent to many - a very real discussion of acknowledging problems along with progress.

and Jim's response struck me:

He said during the Renaissance, held as one of man's finest periods of creation and history, the population of Florence never exceeded 80,000 - the approximate size of the city of Youngstown today.

Jim continues but "it's not your size, it's the direction you are going" which really matters.

It's the ability to create, where "scent that comes from living in youngstown attaches itself to everything" one does.

One can see the influence of location in this video featuring the retrospective of 25 years of Jim's work - work now displayed and exported around the country.

notes: pictures borrowed from Jim's website,

Thursday, December 25, 2008


veselé vianoce a stastný nový rok!

from all the youngstown gals in the recent How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas performance.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

the state of the state - part II

Kudos must be given in this case to the Youngstown CIC for making the decision to retain the facade of the State Theater even though the rest of the structure is being demolished this month.

one kept, two more biggies to retain (Paramount Theater and the Kress Building)

and a nice story on he State in December's Metro Monthly:
"This is why I am never ashamed to say I was born and raised and continue to fight the good fight in Youngstown, because the area is comprised of wonderful, dedicated people who have great concern for our city and its future – even if it is one facade at a time."

some of this blog's readers asked this week about the current gap between the State's kept facade and the Wells Building at the corner.

Well, here are some recent de-construction photos:

love that red shag wallpaper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

get fine-tuned this weekend

Coming back to town for the holidays?

Care to impress your relatives with youngstown's rapidly improving downtown and the artistic efforts of one of downtown's residents?

Well, this friday and saturday on December 26th and 27th, Fine-Tune the movie will be showing at 7pm at the Oakland.

You can click here and here to see more on the background of the film, which contains links to the beautifully produced music videos for the movie such as:

What caught my eye at the premier was how the the excellent cinematography extended throughout the film - from beautiful scenes of driving through Mill Creek Park to the splendor of the sacred cookie table.

Speaking of the premiere, here's a video from that night where Director Chris Rutushin has a moment with Tony Lariccia, the Executive Director:

Hundreds were there downtown at the Ford Recital Hall for the event:

More info on the Oakland is available here, including a number to make reservations (last few showings have sold out!)

Keep supporting the local economy by experiencing the vision of local artists.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

rust belt brewery: 1st beer poured

Tonight, the first beer of downtown's craft brewery was available.

After several months of construction and preparation, all systems go for the best part: consumption.

Read the background story on Ken and Rust Belt Brewery here.

Here are some photos from October showing their space inside the B&O banquet center:

all right next to the red mr. peanut bridge:

Traveling the Cleveburgh Corridor, we've met rusty comrades across the Tech Belt with an interest in both craft beers and visiting each other's cities. (the guys from SIDT are a great example)

Perhaps a spring/summer series of events in 2009 at breweries throughout our region can combine aspects of social and technology networking, urban history, brewery tours, and general debauchery.

I can vouch Erie has a great setup in their old train station, and I'm sure other places can be great hosts as well.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

that's correct, $0 of $83,336,401.00

The news is in!

Zero dollars in funding for The Yo in the recent $83.3 million funding round for the Ohio Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Glad to know the State of Ohio is behind our efforts to stabilize neighborhoods within the city, and to grow sustainably as a region. (see the list here)

So while that brief bit of venting was fun, I seriously wonder who/what group in state government (or in ODoD) made the decisions on what jurisdictions to fund, and what not to fund.

Just curious.

Any suggestions out there?

Friday, December 19, 2008


You'll see in many cities across the world a mesh appears when a construction project is going up in the center city.

Essentially, a very thin, painted or colored mesh is wrapped around the scaffolding surrounding a building.

I believe using this fabric is more of an ornamental choice than a necessary construction practice, but let's assume the technology to produce a mesh like this is both available locally and somewhat inexpensive.

- - -

In Youngstown during the last month, the Armed Services Building has been demolished.

So now we have a big gap (like a tooth missing) along Federal Street with no immediate plan to put any structure in the place of the vanished building. The continuity of the street is now disrupted, and a person will soon be able to look from our main street through the entire block (since other structures have been demolished to create parking lots) to Boardman Street without obstruction.

So what about this as a concept:

Build a simple two-story metal frame between the Wells Building and the facade of the State Theater, and then get a mesh (could recreate a piece of art, another building on its surface, etc) to recreate the feeling of a filled streetscape along the sidewalk.

on one hand, the mesh could be a really progressive and dramatic piece of artwork or faux-architectural masterpiece.

on the other hand, the mesh might only work well if it is actually covering up another building. If the mesh is covering empty space, or limiting access or visibility to a parking lot in the distance, maybe inhibiting vision by the public is not desired.

Jane Jacobs wrote about hidden (and sometimes unsafe) public passages in her LaDoGAC. As high-rise public housing projects were built in the 1940s onward in New York City, the public had access to internal hallways to get from the street to their apartments, essentially creating spaces where people did not feel safe. An internal public hallway is different than an external public sidewalk.

So what do you think of this as a concept to "fill the gaps" in a downtown?

What hand, the one or the other, makes more sense to you?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

we all rise, or we all fall

Mayor Williams provides context here on a recent Forbes article about the decline of one suburb next to Youngstown:
"Yet, the Forbes article was 100% accurate in the larger message that it conveyed. The undeniable and overarching message of the article is that this area exists as a region. We will rise as a region and we will fall as a region.

There is no way any suburb in the Mahoning Valley will ever escape the shadow of Youngstown.

Good, bad, or indifferent.

Some elected officials and their constituents choose to live in a fantasy world and pretend that they can separate their communities from the challenges that face the central city. But to anyone with a firm grasp on reality, it would seem that those individuals are of the lineage of the fictional character Don Quixote, titling at their imaginary windmills.

Instead of allowing the article to be just another saga that we hope quickly disappears into the annals of other miserable tales about the Mahoning Valley, we should use it as a catalyst for actions that will lead to robust and sustained regional cooperation. That should be the story that we demand Forbes, or anyone else for that matter, writes about the Mahoning Valley."
and as shown in the recent Youngstown-Girard economic development agreement, adjacent communities can both become winners through cooperation.


big-time winners.

Monday, December 15, 2008

le semple, c'est simple

The Semple Building was the third structure to become a component of the rapidly expanding Youngstown Business Incubator campus in downtown youngstown.

And its outside will soon be getting a facelift.

here's a direct picture of the brick facade (post terra cotta demolition and pre-tech center construction):

and here are the two buildings on both sides of the Semple:

a critique:

What's to like about this design is that the brick integrity is being retained (as well as the rest of the building - the inside looks great too), which when mixed with the glass, will balance old and new materials. Nicely done.

What's not to like about this design is that in the rush to make cohesiveness between the Tech Center and Home Savings, the feel of building sequence is becoming increasingly monolithic.

The utterly architecturally horrific Children's Services Building and its slighty-nicer-but-still-ugly-step-sister of a building, the Voinovich Building, sit face to face to the YBI structures. See the twin tragedies here.

Taken together, now both sides of Federal Street between Hazel and Vindicator Square/Symphony Place lack street level interaction, and for someone interested in commerce or kinetic activity, is somewhat of a dead zone - and will remain this way for years to come because it is recent construction.

So as I walk from the Symphony, or the SMARTS Center, or the Ford Recital Hall, or the wonderful Overture restaurant, or the Mahoning Valley History Museum to the entertainment venues and restaurants towards central square . . .

. . . there is a sense of the dark side one must walk through to go between the patches of liveliness.

especially after business hours.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

now this is cool - Polish Happy Hour downtown thursday

from a press release...

It’s the second Thursday of the month, and that means Polish Happy Hour. This time it’s at the Draught House, 219 W. Federal St., from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

The featured Polish vodka will be Krupnik, a unique and ancient drink made with wild bee honey. The featured beer will be Okocim O.K, a product of one of Poland’s oldest breweries.

The menu will reflect the traditional meatless fare served on Christmas Eve in Poland, including Sledzie Marynowane (pickled herring), Barszcz w Uszka Grzybowa (beet soup with mushroom-stuffed dumplings), and desserts.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be the holidays without Christmas carols. Except they’ll be sung in Polish. For those who don’t know the words, don’t worry. The lyrics will be flashed on a screen, karaoke-style, complete with phonetic pronunciations. For more information, go to

global watties-burgh

Going to get camping supplies in New Zealand, and it's downright impossible to avoid the Keystone (Heinz adaptation) in any grocery store.

The brand of Wattie's Canneries Limited was a staple in New Zealand since its establishment in 1934, and was subsequently purchased by the Heinz of Pittsburgh in 1992.

Baby food, canned vegetables, frozen dinners, sauces, spaghetti, pet food, preserved fruit - you name it - Wattie's is branded on it.

And their soups were perfect for camping - open and eat.

Some flavors had thai influence (massaman curry), indian influence (vindaloo curry), chinese influence (hot and sour)...

why can't we get those flavors here in the U.S.?

well, at least we will always have our wedding soup.

I guess some ideas just don't cross the ocean.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

christmas is a drag, especially now at midnight

what began as a single show two years ago has now grown into a completely sold-out three-performance extravaganza this holiday season.

youngstown playright Robert Dennick Joki keeps adapting the play How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas from year to year, but due to the unprecedented demand for tickets throughout Cleveburgh, they are adding one final midnight show this Saturday, December 13th.

I think Rudy Giuliani would approve.

(I swear that's legit)

This special showing will be held at the Oakland Center for the Arts in downtown youngstown, according to the drag queen Brookeback Mountains:
"This show honors the acceptance and love that is a true mark of the holiday season. It gives families a chance to laugh, bond, and let loose. Many of our patrons tell us they look forward to this event all year, and funds generated by it proceed our non-profit theater as we struggle with high winter utility bills."
tickets are $15 and reservations can be made at 330.746.0404

(seriously, it's Rudy again)

The Oakland is also collecting gently used and new coats for local families through Help Hotline’s Button Up Program that evening PLUS collection donations for Lindsey Hosking.

All that, plus photographer Patrick Hyland is the featured Star Gallery artist who is renowned for his Giclee prints of nature scenes.

Finally, it wouldn't be a Youngstown event without a Chinese Auction.

they will be drawing tickets to win 50 different prizes including:
- a $200 gift certificate to Smith and Co. Jewlers
- original prints and pieces from local artists
- shows for the Opera Western Reserve, Victorian Players, etc.
- and gift certificates for local businesses including Jimmy's Italian Specialties

Monday, December 08, 2008

nz sunday star to U of Akron: drop dead

I was reading New Zealand's Sunday Star newspaper the other day,

and came across the following article by Linda Colley discussing President-elect Obama's educational background and work experience:

according to Ms. Colley:
"It might be argued that this illustrates American meritocracy, except it is not quite as simple as that."

"Had Barack Obama been obliged to take his degree at the University of Akron, say, it is doubtful that his progress would have remotely been as stellar."

Well, don't look now, but the University of Akron is setting its sights to be the top university in Northeast Ohio, recently announcing it will be striving for $200 million in annual research activities.

More from Dr. Proenza and the six-point plan here.

(keep in mind it's a plan and not reality yet, but a guiding strategy nonetheless. Just look where they were in 1990.)

- -

So as YSU begins the task of choosing a new president and looking for new leadership to redefine its position in the nation's economy, the Proenza model and the University of Akron would be neighbors to emulate.

Friday, December 05, 2008

the skinny

plug in.

keep speaking to the next level.


and repeat.

and repeat.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

core of city looking greener even in winter

50% recycling rate at the university.

first university in Ohio to compost food waste.

gold LEED building going up, connecting campus and downtown.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

how auckland parked some abandoned buildings

One of the neighborhood parks here in Auckland, New Zealand have done some pretty interesting things with buildings slated for demolition.

In Western Park (Te Rimu Tahi) right off of Ponsonby Road, designers planted the remains of discarded stoic buildings right into the earth.

It's an interesting idea for a park, but also a keen concept for Youngstown, as many beautiful buildings in the Yo have been removed in the past to make space for parking lots or newer structures.

Even though in Youngstown we should preserve in their present location (and illuminate) the facades of some buildings (see Kress Building, State Theater, and Paramount Theater, for examples), there may be an opportunity to recycle other structures for what we see here in New Zealand.

There are other little aspects of this park which we can even use in the redesign of Wick Park.

check out this disposal site for doggy doo:

and this stone mosaic, welcoming visitors at one entrance:

stay tuned for more stories in the future on other examples of urban design in New Zealand.