Economic Development

Belmont Corridor Study to Aid Development in Youngstown, Liberty

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Belmont Avenue will be the first local corridor to be studied under an initiative launched Thursday targeting major corridors in the area.

The corridor planning program will be unique in that it will study Belmont in both communities it runs through, the city of Youngstown and Liberty Township.

Leaders of both communities as well as local planners and consultants were on hand for a media event at Belmont and Gypsy Lane, where the city and township meet. The study will examine Belmont from downtown Youngstown to the Churchill Commons Plaza north of Interstate 80.

“This is what happens when we decide to come together,” Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said.

“Our objective is to create a vision that can help the city of Youngstown and Liberty Township make decisions that will improve the function of the corridor and make it attractive to development,” said Justin Mondok, transportation planner with Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

When people exit from the interstate onto Belmont Avenue, what they see is what will make them want to come back or not, said Liberty Township Trustee Arnold Clebone. “We want to make it when they turn onto that avenue that this is going to be a place they want to return to,” he said.

Eastgate, the area metropolitan planning organization, is the lead agency on the initiative. Eastgate will examine the corridor’s lane configurations, traffic and congestion, safety and crash issues and potentially even concerns such as flooding issues.

“We’ll look at the tangential topics of housing, economic development and place-making and how it all can be affected by corridor improvements projects,” Mondok said. “Along the way, we’ll engage stakeholders to gain an understanding of the vision of Belmont Avenue from several different perspectives.”

The agency will work with CT Consultants, a civil engineering firm, to develop recommendations to “improve the aesthetics and function” of the corridor to provide the communities with a foundation they can use to collaboratively “build a better Belmont,” Mondok said.

CT will advise both communities for whatever aspects Eastgate – which will focus on transportation — doesn’t do, said Christopher Kogelnik, CT regional manager.

“If there is work for planning that needs to be done for taking the overhead electric and lowering it, or prescribing the zoning that sets for the needed land development for commercial development, then those are a couple of our roles there,” he said. CT also would serve as the engineering firm for the improvements that are recommended.

The recommendations will include larger scale projects that might be incorporated into the region’s long-range transportation plan, as well as mid-sized or smaller projects for which funding can be more readily obtained, Mondok said.

“All of these are just us coming up with ideas and setting the groundwork for our local communities so they can make the decision to take those ideas a step further, and maybe chase funding and actually put those projects on the ground,” he said.

“What we’re looking for is a lot of visual improvements,” Clebone added. “We’re trying to make it more pedestrian-oriented. We want to make it so motorists want to stop in Liberty and they want to continue into Youngstown because this is the gateway to the region.”

Brown would like to see more consistent aesthetics, zoning and even lighting along the corridor. “We can’t just think about today,” he said, but about “2020 and beyond.”

“This has been a dream of mine for quite some time,” remarked Third Ward Councilman Nate Pinkard. He called the project a “perfect example of communities working together” and was particularly pleased that it crossed county lines.

Work will begin July 1, the beginning of Eastgate’s fiscal year, although preliminary work is underway to allow the agency to “hit the ground running,” Mondok said. The Belmont Avenue study should take eight months to a year. He did not cite a cost for the initiative, which will be undertaken with Eastgate’s existing resources.

The mayor said he would like to see similar studies undertaken with city corridors including Mahoning Avenue, Market Street and Glenwood Avenue.

Many communities want comprehensive plans but lack the staff time or resources to commit to such work, Mondok said. It also is a “huge undertaking” that even Eastgate lacks the capacity to do.

“Corridor planning is just as important. It gets at the same issues and it’s something we have the ability to help out local communities with,” he said.

Pictured: Liberty Township trustee Arnold Clebone, Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, Youngstown First Ward councilman Julius Oliver, Youngstown Third Ward councilman Nate Pinkard, Dawn Turnage, Samantha Turner at the announcement of the Belmont Avenue corridor study.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.