Our Towns

Youngstown CityScape Sees Streetscape Blossom

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For the 21st year, just after the Memorial Day weekend, volunteers and CityScape staff will spend a Saturday morning beautifying the downtown and arteries that lead to Central Square.

They will plant flowers, weed flowerbeds, spread mulch and pick up litter.

Last year, more than 650 participated in Streetscape, an effort that has grown every year since some 100 worked the first in 1996. Last year’s volunteers came from the residents of the city and its suburbs, members of garden clubs, the Rotary and other service organizations, and youth groups.

Supporters met Monday in the Central Branch of the YMCA to kick off fundraising and volunteer efforts for Streetscape 2017.

“We’ve asked our donors in our 20th year to consider an incremental increase, if they can – $20 more. Maybe a volunteer who didn’t give – they could send us a $20 donation. That would be wonderful,” Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape, told her audience.

Streetscape was born of an initiative in the mid 1990s by a small group of volunteers Letson calls the “original Streetscape trailblazers.”

“Our 2016 Streetscape event drew over 650 volunteers last year, plus 200 HOBY students – Hugh O’Brian [Youth] Leadership Students – from across the state,” Letson said.

“This started out as a singular initiative 20 years ago, but there’s much more now than just the yearly planting,” said Phil Kidd, associate director of CityScape.

In partnership with the city and Youngstown State University, and with support from the Western Reserve Health Foundation, CityScape installed new outdoor exercise equipment in Wick Park for the first time since 1982. Since 2008, CityScape and its partners have raised more than $400,000 for improvements to the park.

CityScape helped to engineer the lighting and utility segment of the Wick Avenue Improvement project, which began last September, and acts as a liaison between city, contractors and stakeholders.

With buried utility lines, newly matching utility poles, lighting and new green space, Letson described the project, when it’s finished, as a “fitting look for our cultural mile.”

“This past month, we completed the Mahoning Common Fence Line Project,” Letson said. The public art project depicts the city’s skyline. The mural is made up of more than 250,000 colored inserts on the WRTA fence along Mahoning Avenue. CityScape was facilitator, the project funded by a grant from the Raymond J. Wean Foundation.

For the holidays, CityScape helped with the downtown holiday parade and led ‘Sparkle Youngstown,” the downtown holiday lighting initiative.

“This year, thanks to our partner, Home Savings Foundation, we were able put our sparkle lights not only in Central Square, but also all the way down Federal Street,” Letson said. ” It really made a statement as a city.”

Lou Joseph, senior vice president of Real Estate and Facilities for Home Savings Bank, and Trish Mohan, branch manager and interim director of Home Savings Foundation, were on hand for turning on the lights at Sparkle Youngstown. Home Savings is a cornerstone donor, giving $10,000 annually to CityScape.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.