Journal Opinion: Patience Needs Communication

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The deep dive into downtown Youngstown’s Smart2 Network project should be illuminating to our readers.

In this space, we have voiced frustrations shared by downtown business and property owners, members of the growing residential community and visitors. As a downtown Youngstown business since 1987, we are very familiar with the inconveniences and understand the complaints.

While we fully support the Smart2 project, our employees and customers have had to navigate closures of roads we regularly use, the occasional re-closings of roads that we thought had been completed, and even the unannounced sealing off of our employee parking lot (during work hours) when pavement was laid. And we certainly sympathize with the bar and restaurant operators who report poor revenues because patrons are going elsewhere rather than trying to find a street that’s open and access to parking.

Topping the concerns expressed by the downtown community is the lack of information provided about the progress of the project. City Hall has acknowledged that communication should be improved, which is good and something we’ve heard before. We are encouraged that city officials expressed openness to suggestions that wayfinding signage be created. So get it done!

And it’s also good that City Hall is considering a marketing campaign to encourage people to patronize downtown restaurants and bars. Get this ball rolling as well! Events like the recent Y-Live concert at Wean Park, which drew more than 20,000, demonstrate that people will come downtown if they have a reason.

Seeing is believing and the city has an obligation to show the public what the downtown will look like once all this aggravation ends.

Big colorful posters should be posted strategically that show renderings of how certain streets will be transformed when Smart2 is completed. Handouts also should be distributed to downtown businesses and their patrons. Businesses, residents and visitors deserve to see past the torn-up streets and “Road Closed” signs – and how the disruptions will redound to their benefit.

Sign companies a stone’s throw away from downtown could turn these posters and handouts around in 24 hours.

City officials: Get it done!  

Regarding poor communication in general, we note the local press was not notified of recent meetings with downtown stakeholders – held virtually and in person – that were convened by the city to provide updates on the project and answer questions.

What gives?

The public, essentially the pool of potential patrons for downtown businesses, needs to know how the work is progressing and how they can navigate the downtown.

City officials: No excuses.