Junior League Proposes Park Project on East End

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A new pocket park is being proposed for the area of downtown that is becoming a hub of commercial activity.

The city Board of Control approved a memorandum of understanding Thursday with the Junior League of the Mahoning Valley for development of the “legacy park” on the city-owned grassy lot abutting the Valley Foods parking lot and across from the Youngstown Flea building.

“The league has always been about improving the community. So this is a wonderful way, especially with the investments that are being made in the eastern district here, that we can play a small role in leaving a legacy in the city,” said Bergen Giordani, Junior League president.

Commercial activity has grown in the area since Youngstown Flea founder Derrick McDowell purchased the former Northeast Fabricators building, 368 E. Boardman St., in October 2020. Less than two months later, Penguin City Brewing Co. purchased the nearby Republic warehouse, 460 E. Boardman St., with plans to redevelop that space.

Giordani credited Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick, a Junior League member, with the inspiration for the park. Dellick’s court is near the proposed park.

Dellick pointed to the mural along Andrews Avenue painted by Youngstown State University students, beautification activity going on in the city including the development of Raymond John Wean Foundation Park and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater, and the presence of “so many robust businesses” including Penguin City, the Flea, Brilex Industries and others in the area.

“We saw this empty lot there” and thought about what could be done with the property, she said. “It’s such a small spot it won’t be a ‘park’ park, but we do want to make it into a legacy park.”

Youngstown East End Park
Early rendering of the park.

The project started out as a dog park then became something more, “a welcoming beacon to the East End,” Giordani said.

The park, which Dellick said would cost an estimated $75,000, would include boxwood shrubs, flowers, a brick path and a permanent storyboard with the history of the East End, according to a rendering of the park site. An arborative screen will align with an aluminum fence Valley Foods is installing at the edge of its parking area. The site also will need to be leveled and new grass planted.

Architect Gregg Strollo, president and principal of Strollo Architects, is donating his services to the project. “He believes in improving our city because it’s a wonderful city,” Dellick said.

The proposal got support from two of the East End’s newest business owners.

“I’m wholly excited for what Judge Dellick has proposed,” McDowell said.

Dellick recognized that the location had potential, he continued. Developments such as Valley Foods’ $4.4 million expansion plant there, Penguin City’s project and his Youngstown Flea “have led to a wonderful conversation about spaces and places that we once drove by … and quite honestly thought nothing of until we got a glimpse of what can be,” he said.

The park will provide a “nice, welcoming feeling” for people entering the East End district, said Aspasia Lyras-Bernacki, Penguin city co-owner. Penguin City is preparing to begin brewing in the warehouse in the next few weeks and has events booked beginning in June. Also occupying space in the former warehouse will be Cockeye BBQ, DOPE Cider House and KO Consulting.    

“I’m very excited because we’re trying to create this new district in downtown Youngstown in this area that no one really knows about,” Lyras-Bernacki said. She envisions people buying ice cream from Cockeye and walking over to the park.

Commemorative bricks to honor families, loved ones and even pets will be sold to help pay for the project, Giordani said.

Once the Youngstown project is complete, the league also wants to do similar projects in Trumbull and Columbiana counties, Dellick said.

Plans for the project are expected to go before the city’s Design Review Committee in May.

Pictured at top: Junior League President Bergen Giordani at the site of the proposed park with her two dogs.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.