Education

Tressel Outlines Ambitious Plans for YSU Upgrade

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The coming years for Youngstown State University will be years of expanding the physical campus as President Jim Tressel laid out a campus development plan, “NextYSU: A New Look for a New Era,” April 19.

Four projects – development of the west side of campus, the creation of the Student Success Center, improvements to the bookstore and renovations to Wick and Lincoln avenues – are on the agenda, while one, renovations at Melnick and Fok halls, are complete.

“You’ll have people visiting the place, a student experience that’s a little more vibrant and more interactive from the people working at the hospital [St. Elizabeth] and downtown,” Tressel said. “It’ll be uplifting. It’ll help [student] recruiting and help recruit businesses to the area. They want to be in a vibrant environment with things to do.”

Development has already begun on the western border of the campus along Fifth Avenue with the construction of University Edge apartments, a 162-bed building scheduled to open before the fall semester begins. A 220-bed second phase is expected to be completed for the 2017-18 school year and will include retail space. Smith Hall will be demolished to make room for the expansion. A new Smith Hall will be built across the street.

UniversityEdgeRendering925

In addition to the two apartment buildings on Fifth Avenue, two more are planned, although Tressel did not provide a completion date. The two complexes are Enclave Apartments, a 163-bed complex on Wick Avenue between Rayen and Lincoln avenues with retail space on the first floor, and an NYO Property Group project on Rayen Avenue between Wick and Champion avenues with 40 units.

All apartment complexes are land lease agreements between developers and the university and must be approved by the state.

To develop the corridor, YSU will apply for the Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery Grant, or Tiger Grant, by the end of the month. If the university is awarded the grant this fall, it will work with Mercy Health, Eastern Gateway Community College, the city of Youngstown and others to make improvements to the corridor. The idea, Tressel said, is to create a “meds to eds to tech to rec” boulevard that stretches from St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital to Mill Creek Park. The bulk of work, he said, would lie between Madison Avenue and Commerce Street.

Announced in February, the Student Success Center between Jones Hall and Maag Library will house “advisers, mentors, counselors and anything students need to succeed,” Tressel said. An enclosed bridge on the third floor will connect the two buildings.

“Jones Hall to [our alumni donors] is a flagship. As we’ve talked to them, there’s been interest in keeping Jones Hall as the beautiful place it was constructed as,” he said.
Jones Hall will also be renovated as departments are relocated within the building. Tressel discussed expanding the multicultural student center on the first floor and moving the records office to another floor.

While no contract has been signed, Barnes & Noble Booksellers has been recommended to operate the YSU bookstore in an effort to improve efficiency, the president said.
“The state has asked us to find efficiencies to keep costs down for students,” he said. “Anything we can think of to generate revenue and create scholarship opportunities and work opportunities.”

The partnership opens the door to the possibility of a stand-alone bookstore on the edge of campus, he added. Such a structure would make it easier for visitors who want to buy a YSU T-shirt, for instance, Tressel noted, to get in and out.

With the help of a federal grant, Lincoln Avenue will be improved this summer: repaving, better lighting and eliminating parking on the north side of the street. On Wick Avenue, utility lines will be buried and the street changed to three lanes to avoid “the bumper-car kind of driving that we do through there,” Tressel said.

Construction will be completed “no later than Nov. 1,” he added.

Also along Wick Avenue, the M1 parking deck will be closed from May 9 to Aug. 15 when it will be painted, the elevators upgraded and lighting replaced.

“Most of our visitors that come to campus, especially prospective students, park there. We want them to come down a beautiful Wick Avenue and park in a nice deck,” Tressel said.

In the latest capital budget, the state allocated $3 million for the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center, a hub for workforce development, academics and entrepreneurship. The site hasn’t been determined, but renderings show the center on North Phelps Street between Rayen and Lincoln avenues.

Most of the on-campus projects will be funded through donations, Tressel said, with no money coming out of student tuition. The YSU Foundation, with a new office in the recently renovated Melnick Hall, is responsible for most fundraising, said its president, Paul McFadden.

It’s been about two years since planning for these upgrades began, McFadden said, and donors have been more than willing to help.

“Our alumni and friends of the university have really been stepping forward. As the president’s vision emerges, that’s what will really bring up philanthropic investment,” McFadden said.

As the projects are completed, he added, fundraising should get somewhat easier as a body of work becomes available to show off.

“Our university has a tradition of philanthropy dating back to Howard Jones and what he gave over the years. It’s evident in the names on campus: Kilcawley, Bliss, Maag and more,” McFadden said. “We hope to expand on a wonderful tradition of philanthropy here at YSU.”

Pictured: Rendering of improved Lincoln Avenue.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.