City Provides Progress Report on Smart2 Project Downtown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Both sides of Front Street downtown should be complete by Halloween, City Deputy Director of Public Works Charles Shasho said.

During a virtual meeting with downtown stakeholders Wednesday afternoon, Shasho reported that Boardman Street between Market Street and Vindicator Square should reopen Friday after being closed to accommodate installation of a crosswalk at Boardman and South Phelps Street.

Shasho provided the second in a series of virtual updates on the second phase of the Smart2 – Strategic & Sustainable, Medical & Manufacturing, Academic & Arts, Residential & Recreational, Technology & Training – Network project.  

The first phase of the Smart2 project, which included a major reconstruction of Fifth Avenue, was completed in 2021. Phase 2 involves upgrades to several downtown streets.

East Front Street is completely closed to traffic and West Front offers one-way eastbound access on what will be the bikeway as work is finished on the main road. Landscaping is being completed and light poles are installed, Shasho reported.

“This whole roadway section of Front Street is complete all the way to Market Street,” he said. Once the landscaping work is finished, one-way traffic will switch to the main road to accommodate completion of work on the future bike path.

East Front between Market and Walnut Street has been closed for several weeks, with access maintained to and from the Covelli Center, local parking and local businesses, he said. Crosswalks are being installed and other work to be completed includes miscellaneous tasks related to some Ohio Edison vaults, sidewalks and foundations being poured and trees and plants being planted.

“Since this was closed completely, we had the luxury of working on the whole road at the same time. It’s just slightly behind but they caught up significantly in the last 30 days,” he said. “My anticipation is that Front [Street], by the time we meet again within a month, maybe two months from now, it will be complete and open to normal traffic patterns.”

Both East and West Front will receive a final coat of asphalt before reopening, weather permitting, by the end of October, he said.   

Commerce Street has been “a challenge,” because of the unanticipated discovery of several underground vaults, Shasho said. All the curbs and sidewalks are out and contractors are grading for curb placement.

Once the new curb is installed, the pace of work will pick up dramatically. He expects sidewalks to be in place by next month’s virtual update and the goal is to set one layer of asphalt before the weather breaks this year.

“Of all the streets, I thought Commerce Street would be the one that was a little bit on the easier side,” he mused. “We’re getting ready to make some good progress on Commerce Street as soon as we get through these vaults and the light pole situation.”

Contractors are demolishing the section of East Federal Street between South Avenue and Walnut Street, which is under a “hard closure,” he reported. In the next month, demolition should begin on the next block of East Federal, between Champion and Walnut streets. No work is scheduled for West Market Street in the next 30 days, he added.

Shasho acknowledged that even when work is completed on West Commerce between Phelps and Wick, the street might need to remain closed for a while to accommodate the demolition work going on at the 20 Federal Place building.  

No downtown project is without surprises, and Smart2 Has “had some bumps.” But the project overall has gone smoothly, Shasho said. He expects a “smoother finish” next year. 

Following the virtual meeting, representatives of Youngstown CityScape counseled patience with the $27.65 million construction project.

“It’s just tough going for everyone, because we survived the pandemic, and now we have to survive construction,” said Sharon Letson, executive director. “Everybody needs to try to be supportive of one another, the businesses tdowntown, or visitors coming to an event.” She also recommended the city make simple maps to help guide visitors when they come downtown.

Adam Lee, Cityscape program director, said Shasho “did a great job going over the closures and explaining challenges they’ve had.” He was pleased that downtown businesses pushed for a “more robust dialogue” concerning the project.

“We will have a lot of challenges when parts of downtown are less accessible. But if we as a community stay ahead of everything and clearly communicate to patrons, visitors and the like, it will go a long way toward the future success of downtown,” Lee said. “Overall, this will be amazing for the city and will be worth it all when it’s done.” 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.