CityScape Receives $187K ARC Grant for Briel’s Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The repurposing of the former Briel’s Flowers and Greenhouse property should get underway soon after the award of a $187,500 Appalachian Regional Commission grant.

Youngstown CityScape will use the ARC grant and $187,500 in matching funds from the city of Youngstown’s American Rescue Plan allocation to convert the buildings and property at 23-29 S. Belle Vista Ave. for use as a community gardening resource center.

“Now that the funding is completed and the announcement has been made, our hope is to proceed with as much haste as we can, given the fact that we now need to line up with our contractors and now get ourselves onto people’s schedules,” Martha Morgan, Youngstown CityScape grant writer, said Thursday morning. “We couldn’t even get ourselves onto anybody’s schedule until that announcement had been made.”

The grant was one of four grants submitted by Eastgate Regional Council of Governments that received ARC funds, Kathy Zook, ARC program manager at Eastgate, said. The awards were from the funds Ohio provides to supplement the federal ARC funding, she reported.

The nonprofit community development organization, which focuses on revitalization of greater downtown Youngstown, purchased the shuttered florist and greenhouse for $145,000 in July 2021 and announced its plans for the property the following month.

The organization found out late Monday that it had been awarded the funds, Morgan said.

“We are very excited about all the possibilities this funding opens up at the greenhouse and the terrific resources this multifaceted project will bring to our city,” Sharon Letson, CityScape executive director, said in a Thursday morning news release.

“CityScape at Briel’s is an ideal satellite site for individual, neighborhood and community gardeners from across the city,” she continued. With the upgrades provided through this grant, we will be able to provide improved levels of technical assistance, materials, and build bridges to increase community outreach to support all these groups.”

The project, which will take place over an 18-month period, will create a retail space for local entrepreneurs/makers, an educational/event space, and provide a demonstration kitchen to present educational programs targeting healthy eating, according to the release.

Additionally, the space will house CityScape’s community gardening resource center for neighborhood gardeners from across the city. Classes and programs at the facility will be available to community gardening groups from around the city. Cooking classes offered will include instruction in how to utilize ingredients grown by local growers in the greenhouse space, Morgan said.

All programming will be focused on driving greater economic stability of nearby low-wealth communities, according to the CityScape release.

“On so many levels our community gardening resource center will go a long way to solve many of CityScape’s logistical challenges, providing neighborhood meeting space, offering the greenhouse for planting and classes, with nearby available parking and a location that is accessible by public transportation or car,” Letson said in the release.

“It’s going to be an interesting addition to the neighborhood,” Morgan remarked. “People are going to find that it’s both educationally valuable and personally interesting. It’s something that is not available really any place else around, and we’re looking forward to putting it together.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, offered a statement in response to a request for comment on the ARC award.

“If we want to promote economic development throughout Ohio, we need to ensure that businesses and communities have the tools and resources they need,” he said. “Investments like this help communities create jobs, grow their economy, and attract businesses to the area. I’ll continue to fight for funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, so it can continue to empower our communities.”

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