CityScape Recognizes Residents, Businesses

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For 18 years, Youngstown CityScape has promoted the idea that the economic advancement of the city is related to how it presents itself. And what started in 1997 as a small group working to clean up downtown has morphed into a citywide movement to plant flowers, clean up empty lots and put a face on the city that best represents Youngstown.

“CityScape has always believed that’s important to pay attention to the details, whether they’re flowers or our [Christmas lights] downtown. All of those things are important to how the city looks and help move it forward,” said Sharon Letson, CityScape’s executive director.

Last night Letson presented the organization’s ninth annual beautification awards, given to individuals, businesses and institutions that have made marked improvements to their properties and neighborhoods.

“It’s amazing the number of people who are not only mowing their grass, but also taking care of the lawns of the vacant properties around them. These are the kinds of people we are celebrating tonight,” she said.

Over the years, as more people have seen what the organization is doing, the beautification efforts across the city have ramped up.

“Nine years ago, as we went through the amazing houses back then, we wondered how long it would be before we ran out of nominations,” Letson said. “But we already have a collection of nominees for next year. The spirit and work ethic of our community has been tremendous in that regard.”

The winners for the individual category were Kathy Basista, Frank Chimento, Timothy Jarvis, Melinda and Richard Lackner, Sam Marchionda, Tom Pipoly, and Hermes and Teresa Rodriquiz. All winners are residents of Youngstown.

Many of the home projects included new flowerbeds and planters, trellises, archways and improved house facades, Letson said.

City Machine Technology, Klip-N-Kurl and Show Stopper Landscaping were presented with the beautification awards for businesses. Each improved their properties and surrounding areas, and encouraged other businesses to make improvements of their own.

A year ago, Show Stopper owner Lisa Robinson began renting 3514 Market St., the former home of Burkland & Sons florist, from the city for $1 per month with the provision that she invest $66,000 to improve the property. So far, Robinson is halfway to that mark, she said.

“I redid the landscaping, changed the doors — really it was everything. Everything had to be redone and I did it all,” Robinson recalled. “It was a nightmare, but I saw potential. And the more I looked, the more I saw.”

Over the next year, Robinson said she aims to finish up the landscaping and add a greenhouse to the property to grow flowers and vegetables.

“I want Youngstown and everyone in Youngstown to succeed. I’ll be selling all my mulches, flowers and vegetables from my store, so people don’t have to leave the city to get what they need,” she said.

For the institution beautification award, St Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority, American Legion Post 472, Stambaugh Auditorium and the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center were honored for exterior improvements and, in the case of the final two, for their on-site gardens.

“All of Youngstown is trying to bring the city back. By keeping the city well kept, it shows that we care about the community. It helps bring Youngstown to a new level,” said Dani Dier, director of production services at Stambaugh Auditorium. “We wanted to make sure that the upkeep of the garden met with the standards of the rest of Stambaugh and felt alive like the rest of the building.”

Two years ago, overgrown trees and bushes were removed from the garden and replaced with new shrubbery and flowers. In the time since, the garden has become a venue for weddings and small concerts.

Dier took over maintenance of the garden last year and uses proper gardening techniques to keep the flowers in bloom longer.

“We still have roses going right now, which is almost unheard of, and the hydrangeas have been in bloom through two seasons, starting in spring and still going,” she said.

In the coming years, she plans to expand the beautification to the rest of the building.

“It’ll be a transition from that single garden to wrapping around the whole building. Hopefully over the next few years, you’ll see gardens all around the building and parking lots start to have that kind beautification as well,” she said.

Pictured: Dani Dier, director of production services at Stambaugh Auditorium, maintains the courtyard garden at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.