McNally Sets Ambitious Development Agenda for 2017

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The upgrade of the Wick Avenue corridor is ahead of schedule but the debut of the new amphitheater and riverfront park likely will wait until 2018, Mayor John McNally said Wednesday.

McNally, who filed his petitions for a second a term at the Mahoning County Board of Elections this morning, reflected on the city’s progress in 2016 and what’s ahead for 2017 at yesterday’s weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Youngstown.

The city will be moving “full speed ahead” this year with the amphitheater/park, which would complement the Covelli Centre and provide downtown with greenspace. The park area also would provide a new venue for some of the city’s smaller festivals, though larger ones such as the Greater Youngstown Italian Festival likely would remain at Central Square, McNally said.

“Many of you probably noticed the tons of clean fill dirt” that had been taken from the Interstate 80 improvement projects locally and moved to the project site, he said. That dirt will be used to encapsulate the former Wean United property on the site.

The city has gone out for design work for replacement of an 84-inch sewer line that cuts across the property, he said. “Hopefully by the end of February we’ll formalize a contract with MKSK on all the design work for the property,” he said. “I would expect opening and completion of that project to be in 2018, with a large chunk of that work being done in 2017.”

The mayor had envisioned the project moving at a pace that would allow events to take place at the site this summer, but he now acknowledges the sewer line work and getting the design contract in place make next year more realistic.

The year-long Wick Avenue project, which got underway in September, is running two weeks ahead of schedule, McNally told Rotary members. He hoped that the weather would continue to cooperate so that contractors Marucci & Gaffney Excavating Inc., Youngstown, could remain ahead of schedule.

Last month, he tasked Mike McGiffin, coordinator of downtown events and special projects, with increasing communication to the Wick Avenue stakeholders to keep them updated on developments with the project.

“It’s been difficult at best because it’s situational,” McGiffin said. “The project is fortunately moving faster than we wanted but unfortunately it’s disrupted the timeline and everybody’s planning, so it’s a situation where we’re pretty much rolling with the punches.”

There are several events that occur on a regular basis at institutions along the corridor between Sunday service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, art openings at the Butler Institute of American Art and the recent “Memories of Christmas Past” exhibit at the Arms Family Museum, he said.

For example, the annual Boar’s Head festival is taking place this weekend so the church needs greater access than normal. “So, we’re going to make sure that we accommodate it and make it not look scary, like a scary construction zone,” he said.

“The project has been evolutionary because a lot of our expectations and the contractors’ expectations changed quite a bit once they got into it,” said Bill Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, which operates the Arms Museum, and Youngstown Rotary president. So far, the museum has had “easy access” from the north, with only a couple of days of limited access due to installation of trenches.

McNally also took note of the city’s collaboration with Youngstown Rotary on Wick Park, including the installation of upgraded equipment in 2015 and upgrades to the pavilion that the club is helping underwrite.

“Infrastructure is going to be a big thing in 2017,” McNally said. Other projects on tap include resurfacing of Federal Street and major work on Meridian Road.

In addition, the city in conjunction with the Mahoning County Land Bank took down 517 commercial and residential structures last year, including a former grocery store building on the southern end of Belmont Avenue. His goal is for the city itself to take down 518 structures this year, an objective he said some people in City Hall “screamed” about when they heard.

The mayor also pointed to progress on several other projects downtown, including the long-awaited conversion of the Stambaugh Building into a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, due to be completed later this year, and the renovation of the City Hall Annex to serve as the new home for the municipal court as well as the clerk of courts office, probation office, vice squad and city health department.

He also praised the work being done by the city police department and programs such as the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence and even the Boys & Girls Club to help reduce crime rates. Crime is down 15 percent citywide in 2016 from 2015. Homicides totaled 18 last year as opposed to 23 the year before.

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