CityScape Hires Activist Kidd as Associate Director

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Youngstown CityScape will move to new offices over the next few weeks, but not before the organization grows with the addition to its staff of downtown activist Phil Kidd. The founder of the Defend Youngstown and Youngstown Nation campaigns, Kidd begins his new position today as associate director of CityScape.

The CityScape position is “a very good fit for my experiences,” Kidd says. In addition to his roles with the Defend Youngstown and Youngstown Nation campaigns, he also owns the Youngstown Nation store downtown and previously has worked as events director for the city and as a neighborhood organizer with Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative.

Since returning to Youngstown about 10 years ago, Kidd says he has been a resident of either the Wick Park neighborhood or downtown, where he now resides. He and Sharon Letson, CityScape executive director, previously collaborated on projects in Wick Park, where he was founder and president of its neighborhood association there.

“There’s no question Phil brings a full set of skills that CityScape doesn’t have currently. He has that whole media piece that we have not had the time to develop and really capitalize on,” Letson says.

“Phil has a great following, CityScape has a great following,” she adds. “He has been a Youngstown advocate for a long time and it’s a good fit for both of us [and] for our organization.”

Kidd’s responsibilities “will unfold as time goes on,” Letson says. They will include collaborating with her on the rollout of the new CityScape website, which will make its debut in coming weeks, and working with the Downtown Business Association of Youngstown. “He will coordinate a lot of those efforts and help to spearhead that and move that along,” she says.

“I’m hitting the ground running on a number of different fronts,” Kidd says. “I know the work. I know the ground game, the dynamics. I know a lot about City Hall. I know the neighborhood conditions of Wick Park. I know what people want to see there as far as activities and fundraising.”

Kidd says his Youngstown Nation store, which already serves as an informal downtown information center, likely will play a role in helping to promote CityScape’s efforts. In his new role, he also will be involved in fundraising for Wick Avenue improvements and initiatives put forth by the grassroots downtown Economic Action Group.

CityScape’s upcoming move to the McCrory Building — where it will occupy space on the second floor, above the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology – will provide additional office space andt a community meeting room, Letson says.

The building is owned by First National Bank of Pennsylvania, and the bank’s Youngstown market president, Pete Asimakopoulos, is CityScape’s board president.

“First National Bank has been a downtown champion for a long time, and not just for CityScape,” Letson remarks. “As a bank, they have supported the growth that has happened downtown.”

The bank gave CityScape “a very favorable lease,” she adds.

Mayor John McNally and Dominic C. Marchionda, facilitator for the economic action group and operations coordinator for NYO Property Group LLC, applauded Kidd’s appointment.

“It’s a good move for CityScape,” McNally says. “Phil is obviously devoted to the improvement and beautification of downtown and as a small business owner in downtown, I think the energy he brings will help increase the capacity for CityScape to grow as an organization.”

Marchionda recalls how, when he was a graduate student miles away from Youngstown, Kidd’s blog about what was happening in the city “captured my interest.” Kidd’s hiring has “huge potential upside,” he says.

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