CityScape Executive Director Stresses Significance of Downtown, Realty Tower

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A downtown community development group believes the Realty Tower should be stabilized, community stakeholders should determine next steps and assistance from the state, federal and local levels should be enlisted.

A news release from Sharon Letson, Youngstown CityScape executive director, stresses the importance of downtown to the Mahoning Valley and the significance of the Realty Tower, which was damaged in an explosion May 28, to downtown.

The full statement:

“Downtown Youngstown is the beating heart of the Valley.” This phrase is more than just a slogan – it captures the essential relationship that exists between our center city and the surrounding area. 

The beating heart of our downtown revolves around history, architecture, and a shared “sense of place” that is like no other. The buildings that makeup downtown are a critical part of the ongoing conversation that ties our past to our future. Our downtown buildings provide us with opportunities to ask, “What is important in our history?”, “What parts of our past can we preserve for the future?”, and “How do we keep our beating heart healthy?”  

Realty Tower has been a fixture in our center city for over a century. It is an architectural treasure and a cornerstone of our downtown skyline. On behalf of Youngstown CityScape, I suggest that the immediate way forward with the Realty Tower is clear:  

1. stabilize the building

2. take time as a community of stakeholders to determine best next steps 

3. identify who can help in this process at the federal, state, and local levels, and enlist help 

We are more than three weeks out from the events of May 28th, and it seems unfathomable that basic steps to stabilize the structure have yet to be taken; steps that would both stabilize the structure AND provide basic safeguards for the community.  Once the building is stabilized, we, as a community, need to assess the situation and determine best next steps. We need to evaluate what resources – federal state, and local – can be enlisted, and what economic, financial, and social tools we can put to use. Municipal leaders, property owners and Youngstown stakeholders working together is the key to forming the united force needed to spearhead these critical goals. The considerable magnitude of this work will require consensus and effort from downtown stakeholders, businesses, financial and philanthropic institutions, and the greater community. Public meetings, open communication exploration of available tools and access to experts is needed immediately. 

Two weeks ago, CityScape had nearly 1,000 volunteers downtown to beautify the city in a show of support for Youngstown. We are committed to keeping the city looking beautiful and welcoming, and we continue to work every day toward that goal. CityScape knows that the people of the Valley are determined to see this city rise above these setbacks and blossom. 

This terrible tragedy does not need to be our destiny. What is critical at this point is: 

• Get downtown open 

• Facilitate access to monetary support in addition to the Council’s relief funds for downtown businesses and institutions 

• Press forward with positive goals and not be paralyzed  

How can you help? Come downtown and join us! Eat at downtown restaurants! Visit Oh Wow!, the Butler, or see a performance at the DeYor! Go to a show at the Covelli Centre! Play bocce at the MVR! Support First Friday events! Back your favorite YSU team!  

Our city is at a crossroads. It will take all of us pulling together to achieve our goals. Now is the time for everyone who cares about this Valley to step up and support Youngstown!

Pictured at top: The Stambaugh Building, Realty Tower and International Towers are seen in downtown Youngstown.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.