Youngstown Eyes East Side for Development

YOUNGSTOWN – Youngstown is considering rezoning about 30 acres on the East Side to industrial green classification, an initiative that officials say will make the vacant land more competitive in attracting new business to this section of the city.

“We are positioning ourselves with shovel-ready sites that we can leverage as another tool for economic development and housing opportunities,” says Nikki Posterli, the city’s director of community planning and economic development.

The land under consideration consists of nearly an entire block along Albert Street, and is bordered by Republic Avenue to the north, Kimmel Street to the south, and Atkinson and Bennington Avenues to the east.

City Council voted April 7 to place the measure before the city’s planning commission.

The property consists of several large parcels and a collection of smaller lots that are zoned for mixed-use institutional, one- and two-family residential, and single-family residential use.

Most of the lots along the perimeter of the site, especially along Republic, Kimmel, Atkinson and Bennington, are occupied residences and are not included in the rezoning measure. About 12 vacant parcels on these streets are, however, according to exhibits included with the legislation.

On April 7, a large backhoe and a front-loader could be seen on the property as well as what appeared to be freshly cut trees.

“We get inquiries all the time, and we have been systematically looking for residential and commercial sites that would meet the criteria for commercial and industrial use,” says Hunter Morrison, the city’s planning consultant.

Essentially, the measure extends the green industrial designation that is on the west side of Albert Street, Morrison says.

“It’s an attractive site with accessibility to the freeway,” he says. “The Albert Street ramp is right there.”

During a City Council planning and zoning committee meeting March 26, Sharon Woodberry, the city’s economic development director, explained that leads for projects often come with specific requests, such as a certain amount of acreage or an existing building.

“There is a huge demand for projects looking to site parcels that are 20 acres or more,” Woodberry says. “We have to respond quickly to those leads.”

Last year, for example, the city received a total of 43 leads for new business projects, according to Woodberry.

Twenty-three of those leads required an existing building. Out of the remaining 20, just one asked for a lot of 10 acres, while 19 requested a lot with 20 or more acres.

“We need to be a player in this, and we need to provide sites to meet that demand,” Woodberry says.

Rezoning the targeted area is imperative so the city could respond quickly to a potential business development, she says. “It’s not ready if it’s not zoned correctly. They will pass up this property and go to something that is less involved.”

The Albert Street site made sense because of two factors, Woodberry says.

First, its size more than satisfies demand for 20 acres. Second, just two owners control the property – the city of Youngstown and the Youngstown Board of Education.

“There’s an ease of assembly,” she says. The next step would be to negotiate an option to acquire the land from the school board.

First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver says he believes two companies are interested in that location, but could not provide any additional details.

Other sites the city has identified for possible future development include the Landsdowne Airport property on the East Side, and a 70-acre lot along Poland Avenue that is owned by Sherman International.

Woodberry says the city is also examining potential end uses for the former McGuffey Mall site on the city’s East Side.

Pictured at top: The city is considering rezoning about 30 acres along Albert Street on the East Side to industrial green classification.