Economic Development

‘2010’ Plan Inspired ‘Renewed Pride in City’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Phil Kidd was serving in the Army when he first heard of the Youngstown 2010 plan being put together more than a decade ago.

Kidd, who grew up in Pittsburgh, became involved in student government at Youngstown State University where he learned more about the community. While in the Army, he read about the 2010 planning process and decided to return here.

Kidd, today associate director of Youngstown CityScape, also owns the Youngstown Nation store downtown. “The greatest contribution was the energy it created, which got the ball rolling for a lot of the progress happening now,” he says.

Organizations such as Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., much of the downtown investment and the development of the various neighborhood groups throughout the city were “born out of the energy and the idea behind Youngstown 2010,” he observes.

Adopted by the city a decade ago, the Youngstown 2010 plan is not so much a roadmap to be rigorously followed than a compass pointing it in the direction it wants to go, advocates say.

Youngstown 2010 was never intended to be a plan with a “heavy-handed” approach that urban renewal plans of the past took, says William D’Avignon, director of the city community development agency.

“The whole concept was it’s really important to make sure that resources are being allocated to stabilize certain areas and that long-term investments aren’t being made in areas [where] the market [has] already spoken,” he continues.

Several concepts within the plan have come to fruition over the years, including the development of a downtown residential community and linking downtown with Youngstown State University.

Still, the main way Youngstown 2010 continues to play a role is neighborhood planning, particularly through YNDC, says Mayor John McNally.

“Neighborhood plans have come about in 10 to 12 different neighborhoods across the city, where YNDC and city staff have sat down with the neighborhood groups and churches and whoever wants to try to help. I think that’s a positive outgrowth,” McNally continues. “We’ve seen neighborhood groups across the city take renewed pride in their city.”

Cleveland and Pittsburgh have had neighborhood improvement organizations for decades, Kidd points out. Before Youngstown 2010, the city “didn’t have organizations like YNDC that can actually do the implementation of things.”

The plan inspired the Raymond John Wean Foundation to shift its funding priorities to building community capacity, neighborhood development corporations, planning and implementation, he says.

A core concept was the “shrinking city,” the premise that the city could essentially shutter neighborhoods as the houses within them were abandoned, cutting utility and city services to the abandoned streets. That was the most heralded aspect of the plan. And its most challenging.

Such a loss of population happens chaotically and “doesn’t lend itself to any kind of real, implementable ways of dealing with what’s left behind,” D’Avignon says. “Unfortunately, the only things that are shrinking in Youngstown, still to this date, are its tax base and, although I think it’s slowing down significantly, the population loss.”

As with Kidd, Youngstown 2010 inspired Dominic C. Marchionda, city-university planning coordinator at the YSU Center for Urban and Regional Studies. “It definitely had a major impact on why I chose to make decisions that would allow me to return home and work, as well as many of my colleagues in the area,” he says.

“Most importantly, it showed me that no matter how much this city has suffered, Youngstown and its people are resilient and that resilience is what will bring more [people] back home to help tell the greatest comeback story for a city of our size and suffering.”

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.