Lowellville Hopes to Become a Destination

LOWELLVILLE, Ohio – As Mayor James Iudiciani talks about his ideas for redeveloping Lowellville, there’s a unifying theme behind the efforts to bring in new businesses, attract visitors and, if all goes as planned, residents.

“Everything starts in Lowellville,” he jokes before taking a more serious turn.

“Some people don’t like traffic, but I want traffic. I’m all about growing Lowellville.”

Aside from the daily trains that roll through, Lowellville tends to be a quiet community without much activity. It’s something that Iudiciani has worked to change for years, and that begins with taking advantage of one of their best possible attractions: the Mahoning River.

Over the past year, the city’s biggest project involves the $2.3 million Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship Program grant through the Ohio EPA.

Awarded over four years ago, the project has finally commenced, it’s main goal being to remove multiple dams all along the river and return the river into its natural warm-water habitat.

Lowellville was the first community to receive the grant, which will also improve sewage treatment and water quality, reducing water treatment costs. But this is just the start of a much bigger vision Iudiciani and village residents share.

The next step to bring more visitors and recreation by connecting the bike trail in Lowellville to the one in Struthers. The bike trail, created in 1983, starts in Poland Township and runs all the way to New Castle, Pa.

“It’s a big deal for visitors who travel into Lowellville from New Castle,” Iudiciani says. Completing the project, however, will cost more than the city has in its coffers.

“We will hopefully get what we need to improve it. We need about a million dollars, so we will be seeking grants,” the mayor says. “It’s all a part of this ‘new Lowellville’ idea and growing as a downtown attraction.”

Through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the city has also received a grant to develop, after the dams have been removed, the Canoe Livery Launch and a riverside park.

Iudiciani is also working with the mayors of Youngstown, Campbell and Struthers to get wireless internet through the communities.

Elsewhere in the village, The McGaffney Road Industrial Park Roadway will see a $500,000 grant to develop 10 acres of land for commercial, industrial or research purposes.

With some businesses in talks with the city and the mayor about the 10 acres near McGaffney Road, he has a lot in the works for a proposed business or industrial park.

“It looks great,” Iudiciani says of the site. “We just need the businesses.”

The mayor has included Youngstown State University in the city’s plans and brought in marketing students to develop a marketing plan for the village. The class will present its ideas at the end of the year.

“We thought it was important for us to engage with YSU and we want the students to learn more about Lowellville,” the mayor says.

“We will get three different marketing plans from them, and I think we’ll be able to use a mix and match of all of them.”

Christopher Kogelnik, regional manager of CT Consultants in Youngstown, is working with village officials as they plan and map redevelopment aspirations.

“The village wants to encourage young people and families. We don’t know what young people want and we are looking to be outside of the box,” Kogelnik says.

The effort to attract visitors and residents began downtown, where renovations to city hall, the Ross’ Market and the gazebo at Veterans Memorial Park have improved the overall look and feel of downtown.

A leisurely walk around the downtown block finds colorful decorations, newly paved sidewalks and roadway, and a colorful mural near the gazebo.

“With the downtown revitalization grant for $300,000, building owners were even able to improve their roofs. The Mahoning County commissioners have been very good to this community,” Iudiciani says.

“It shows. People are starting to realize it, look at Lowellville and look at downtown. The developers that we’ve brought in have said ‘Wow, you guys could really grow here on this river.’ ”

From grants totaling $2.1 million from the county commissioners and the Ohio Public Works Commission, the village has provided $700,000 in matching money for all the improvements it’s made, which Iudiciani describes as “pretty impressive.”

Lowellville has become a popular place for events such as the annual Mount Carmel Society Festival, which features the beloved Baby Doll Dance and attracts thousands of people each year.

More recent opportunities that have brought more traffic include a weekly Monday night car show that attracts hundreds of car enthusiasts over the course of the summer, and Fall Movie Night with hayrides, food and family activities.

Ray Carlson however, owner of RC Outsourcing, says economic growth won’t really take hold until more people realize the importance of supporting local businesses.

“All of the improvements downtown are still coming from taxpayers’ dollars,” Carlson laments.

Carlson says he has high hopes for the community’s improvement and is happy to do business in Lowellville. He recently purchased Carchedi’s restaurant from its original owners to keep a town favorite up and running.

“Carchedi’s has been a big part of this town for more than 60 years, and it had to close its doors in June,” Carlson says. “We want to keep the tradition alive for the community. We are happy to be keeping all of the original recipes, and we will be looking to hire a chef soon.”

Because Carlson’s family has lived in Lowellville for years and his three children went through the Lowellville school system, he has a passion for promoting his hometown.

“I want to help improve the appeal of downtown, and I have my fingers crossed that [the improvements] will take us in a different direction,” he says. “We have to hope for a turning point. Lowellville is off the beaten path. It’s like we’ve reached the bottom, and now we need to rise upward again.”

Iudiciani takes pride in the village businesses downtown that he says have stepped up to support redevelopment plans.

Gary Slaven, owner of Falcon Foundry, and Doug Susany, President of S.E.T. Inc., have been a part of Lowellville for many years and are hoping to see its revival.

“The only reason we were originally here is because of all the steel mills in the valley back then,” Slaven says of the village’s origins. “But for downtown, it looks really nice all cleaned up, although it’s still tough for the businesses because there’s not much.”

Adds Susany: “It’s perfect down here. It’s a nice community, quiet and friendly. I think it’s getting better and better every day. The mayor does an excellent job of bringing in funding to make improvements. [Bringing in more businesses] is a great idea. It would give a little boost to the community and make it a little more active.”

Overall, Iduciani says he is keeping the big picture on the forefront and pushing forward with the plans that are set in place.

“The vision of the village is to become a walk-in community with condos on the river, a bakery, maybe an urgent care center, a beauty salon, doctors offices and restaurants on the river,” the mayor says.

“Where else can you go in Mahoning or Trumbull County to eat at a restaurant on the river where you can watch kayakers go by, and where they can pull right up to the dock and come into a restaurant? That’s our vision.”

He praises the support he’s received, both from the community and the state, and to see the quiet town of Lowellville come back to life.

“It takes people like them and our other businesses to step up and invest in the village. It creates a positive and caring atmosphere, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Pictured: Planning and mapping the village’s redevelopment are its mayor, Jim Iudiciani, the village administrator, Richard Day, and Christopher M. Kogelnik, regional manager of CT Consultants, an engineering firm with offices in Youngstown.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.