City Approves $60K for Improvements to Building Exteriors

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city’s Design Review Committee approved $60,000 in grants Tuesday morning for exterior improvements for three local organizations, including a nearly $2 million renovation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Youngstown.

The $20,000 grant awarded to the youth organization will help cover exterior costs, including two signs and new asphalt for the 2105 Oak Hill Ave. building’s sidewalk and parking lot, according to city documents.

The club has raised more than $1.1 million toward the project, James Bird, CEO and executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Youngstown, said. That includes $750,000 awarded by Ohio Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Design work was completed recently, and the project will go out for bid within the month.

“The entire project now is well over $1.5 million. It’s approaching $2 million,” he said. The goal is to make the façade more attractive to local youths and increase the building’s visibility, “but also to highlight and be a beacon to the South Side.”

Once the renovation is completed, the club will move forward on creation of a community park behind the building, funded by a $1.5 million appropriation through the office of former U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

The other two exterior improvement grants – also for $20,000 each – were awarded to Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation and Congregation Ohev Beth Sholom.

YNDC sought the funds to assist with excavating and replacing existing asphalt on the parking lot and between the walkway and roadway at 2323 and 2333 Glenwood Ave., a $40,000 project. The community development corporation owns the two buildings, one of which is occupied by Branch Street Coffee Roasters, and the other is used by a hair salon.

“It’s a fairly simple and straightforward project,” Ian Beniston, YNDC executive director, said. The two buildings themselves were renovated recently and have new roofs, he said.

Congregation Ohev Beth Sholom, 1119 Elm St., sought the grant to assist with a $145,000 project that will include replacing the building’s front steps, which “aren’t usable at the moment,” Sarah Wilschek, executive director, said. The project also will involve removing existing landscaping and adding topsoil and new plants around the building.    

“We are hoping to use the funds to not only enhance the visibility and aesthetics of the property, but also to help fortify it in a secure way,” she said. “Currently, we don’t have many barriers or natural bollards around the building.”

The grants, which are structured as loans that are forgiven if the business remains in the city for at least five years, are funded through the city’s American Rescue Plan allocation. 

The committee deferred action on a pair of requests by Common Wealth Inc. and denied a request by Youngstown Rentals for signs on four North Side rental properties it operates.

Common Wealth, which focuses on promoting local food and offers residential properties for lease and sale, had sought approval to build a four-unit row house on property it owns at 117 and 125 Baldwin St.

The row houses would utilize designs and materials supplied by 84 Lumber Co. and be built by Hometown Services, a Hubbard contractor. Each of the two-story units would have three bedrooms and a basement garage.

Committee members balked at giving their approval without a detailed site plan and over concerns that the number of units put the structure into the commercial zoning category rather than residential, and the lack of handicapped access for any of the units.

They requested Common Wealth representatives come back with more information regarding the row houses, as well as a proposed ice cream stand to be built at 912 Elm that they also deferred action on.

“There’s a number of decisions that need to be made before you come back,” Hunter Morrison, planning adviser to the city, said.

“We need housing. Do not let this discourage you,” Nick Chretien, a committee member, said.

Youngstown Rentals, Poland, had sought approval for 8-foot-by-3-foot signs to be hung on houses it leases to college students at 918 Elm and 205, 207 and 211 Park Ave.

Rather than signs that would be hung on the buildings themselves, Morrison suggested the landlord and the designer working for it, DC Graphics, Poland, consider monument signs similar to those used in Cleveland’s Shaker Heights neighborhood. 

Pictured at top: An artist’s rendering of renovations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Youngstown.

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