41 Projects Included in Appalachian Grant Application

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For one weekend each month, the 365 E. Boardman St. home of the Youngstown Flea draws people from throughout the region to patronize the maker vendors who set up shop there.

Youngstown Flea founder Derrick McDowell, who purchased the former industrial property three years ago, said he wants to see the building reach its full potential as a mixed-use community space and hopes that he can secure funding from the Appalachian Community Grant Program to help bring that about. 

“We’ve realized that we’ve got quite a gem here in this 150-year-old historic building,” he said. “It’s only right that we pursue the opportunity to open this place up and allow the community to experience the wonder that it has.”

McDowell’s request for $5.2 million in grant funds is among the more than $155.7 million being sought in a grant application to leverage projects in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties that would total more than $431.6 million. The multicounty grant application was submitted electronically Friday afternoon at an event held at America Makes.

“I really believe they are strong projects,” said Kathy Zook, Appalachian Regional Commission program manager at Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. Eastgate, the regional infrastructure planning agency for Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties, was the lead applicant on the grant application.

Approximately $500 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds was earmarked for Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties by the Ohio General Assembly and Gov. Mike DeWine with the passage of House Bill 377 in June 2022.

The 41 projects covered in the grant request funding for initiatives ranging from workforce development and downtown revitalization to streetscape enhancements and redevelopment along the Mahoning River. Other requests include money for new major projects by the Mahoning Valley’s two largest history societies, investments to assist two Ashtabula County mega sites and assistance for a thrombectomy-capable stroke center in Mahoning County.

To qualify, projects must address at least one of three priorities identified in HB 377: infrastructure, workforce or health care, according to documents from the Ohio Department of Development, which oversees the Governor’s Office of Appalachia. Additional criteria include having a transformational impact on their communities, being responsive to issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and being feasible for completion by October 2026. Awards are to be announced in February 2024.

“Not only did we hit all three areas of investment, but we provided documentation to show if we’re successful how this is going to impact our community, and how we will work together to make sure that the project goes to completion and beyond,” Zook said.

Added McDowell, “We can really take these spaces to the next level and start letting our community see the gem of a space like this,” with the state’s help.

One project is identified as an all-county project. The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber is seeking $562,500, with a match of $661,000, to support development of what is described as a four-county workforce talent retention and attraction ecosystem.

Local governments and private entities in Mahoning County are seeking funds for 17 projects. They include the Youngstown Business Incubator, which is seeking $10 million for a graduate additive manufacturing facility, and Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, which wants $913,489 for Phase 4 of its renovation.

The Western Reserve Port Authority is requesting support for two projects in the county, a Mahoning Valley workforce welcome center and redevelopment of a Belmont Avenue building.


Mercy Health Youngstown is requesting $5 million to support a $114 million thrombectomy-capable stroke center; QuickMed Urgent Care is seeking $2.8 million for redeveloping the former Silver’s Vogue Shop building, 27 W. Federal St.; Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. is seeking $4.9 million for Revitalize Glenwood; and the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, which recently acquired the former IBM Building on East Federal, is seeking nearly $3 million for facility expansion and improvement. 

Requests by local governments in the county include the city of Youngstown, which is seeking $3.9 million for renovations at the B&O Station and riverfront park upgrades, nearly $5.58 million for downtown streetscape enhancements and $1.19 million for targeted façade improvements.

The streetscape funds would go toward improving sections of downtown not already addressed by an approximately $25 million project underway. This includes road diets for parts of East Federal and East Boardman streets. These streets were built to accommodate more truck traffic but now need to accommodate more pedestrian-friendly traffic such as the Flea and the Penguin City Brewing event center, said Hunter Morrison, planning consultant for the city.

“These streets are way, way too wide,” he said. The streets also can be designed to accommodate more parking and make them “feel much more part of the downtown than they currently do.”

Among other Mahoning communities, Lowellville is seeking assistance for its riverfront park and Stavich Bike Trail; Milton Township wants funds for its Mahoning Avenue corridor revitalization plan; and Struthers is seeking help for downtown and streetscape revitalization and a community river launch.

The 10 applications for Trumbull County projects include $5.5 million for renovation of the Brite Energy Innovators incubator; $2.5 million for the Western Reserve Port Authority’s aviation education campus at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport; and $4 million for the Trumbull County Historical Society’s science fiction and fantasy museum.

Additionally, funds are being sought for a river launch at Commerce Park in Newton Falls; downtown riverfront revitalization in Niles; complete street improvements and the Leatherworks trailhead in Girard; Western Reserve Greenway trail and bridge renovations; and Cortland downtown revitalization.

The $1.2 million Newton Falls is requesting would assist with development of a park at the kayak launch area near the Ticknor Avenue crossing bridge and First Street.

“We’re hoping for more tourism,” City Manager Pamela Priddy said. Paths from the area would allow canoers to walk into downtown to visit the shops and restaurants there.   

The $3.5 million being sought by Niles for downtown riverfront revitalization also would go, in part, toward a canoe-kayak launch area, as well as for creating a downtown entertainment area on the footprint of the former Reisman’s Furniture and Robins Theatre buildings now being demolished. The grant also would provide funds for engineering work on the former Masonic temple building, which was recently acquired by a private developer.

Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz said he wants to create an area to accommodate downtown events, food trucks, small concerts and farmers markets.

“The goal there is to create an appealing entertainment area right in the heart of the downtown area, so that when you enter the city of Niles via the viaduct, there is something that is appealing, that is eye-catching, and that makes a statement,” he said. The theater building “was an albatross in downtown Niles,” and the new entertainment space will transform the area.

Columbiana County Port Authority’s $8 request for Rivertown center funds represented the sole request for the county. The port authority is seeking the funds to convert the former Motor Lodge Hotel in East Liverpool along state Route 11 into a facility that would offer treatment, supportive housing and workforce training for individuals suffering from substance abuse, said Bobby Ritchey, recovery coordinator for the port authority.

“This is definitely a project that is needed,” he said.   

The grant application also includes requests for 12 projects in Ashtabula County, including funds for “critical infrastructure” at an Ashtabula mega site requested by the Ashtabula County Port Authority, and an access road for a Conneaut mega site. Ashtabula County Land Bank requested funds for downtown placemaking. Other requests include funds for downtown revitalization in Geneva, Rock Creek, Roaming Shores, Morgan and the villages of Andover and Jefferson, and money for Spire, an athletic, academic, personal and career development organization in Geneva.

In Conneaut, funds for waterfront and port district redevelopment and for the twin bridges kayak launch and water trail are being sought. Geneva-on-the-Lake is requesting shoreline restoration help at Geneva Township Park.  

The collaborative effort among the agencies that participated in the joint application demonstrates that what is being requested is what the participating communities want, according to Zook.  

“It is not being dictated as to what is good for Appalachia,” she said. “This collaboration shows this is what Appalachia supports, and this is what we want to improve our communities.”

Pictured at top: Derrick McDowell, founder of Youngstown Flea.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.