Streetscape Aims to Provide ‘Stemulus’ to Downtown Restaurants

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – This year’s Streetscape event is about more than just sprucing up downtown Youngstown. It’s about giving a boost to businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic.

After last year’s event was forced to be held virtually because of the pandemic, some safety measures will be included in this year’s Streetscape on June 5. The traditional group lunch held afterward is gone, but is being replaced with gift cards to downtown restaurants.

“Usually, we’re knocking on the doors of downtown businesses asking them for a donation to support our event,” said Streetscape chairman Scott Schulick at Friday’s fundraising kickoff. “Restaurants particularly have been struggling over the past year, especially in downtown. We wanted to do the opposite and instead thank them for their support in previous years.”

The theme of this year’s Streetscape is “The Real Stemulus,” a play on the relief for both businesses and individuals that’s been much-needed over the past year. Beyond just being required to close down early in the coronavirus pandemic, downtown restaurants have also been affected by many businesses’ shift to remote work that means fewer workers are in the city’s central district to buy food.

“The driving force of a beautiful place is getting people to see it. For us, as a city, we’ve missed people being in their offices downtown, eating, walking around and seeing how beautiful the city really is,” said Sharon Letson, CityScape’s executive director.

To further give downtown businesses a boost, CityScape is also partnering with Youngstown State University to have art students paint windows downtown with scenes of spring. More details on the works will be announced in the coming weeks.

Scott Schulick, chairman of CityScape’s Streetscape event

This year’s Streetscape can also serve as a welcome back for those who haven’t been downtown in some time because of the pandemic.

“With the new Phelps Alleyway and the [Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre], there are a lot of things you may have missed if you haven’t been downtown in a while,” Schulick said. “We’ve got some big projects that we’re excited to announce. You’ll hear about those over the summer.”

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who spoke earlier in the morning at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning Youngstown event, said Streetscape serves as an official start for summer.

“It’s such a good opportunity for us to start thinking about summer, planning and people. I know that since I’ve been a participant, it’s always such a refreshing opportunity,” he said. “It’s about the sunshine and a great opportunity to drive down Federal Street, around Wick Park and through the community to see greenery and people working hard on that.” 

Volunteers – divided into smaller groups than past events – will be assigned to work at specific sites, Letson said, with equipment and materials already on-site when they arrive on June 5. In addition to the traditional T-shirt, CityScape is also providing masks.

The first donation in this year’s fundraising campaign was presented by Samantha Turner, Third Ward councilwoman and president of Youngstown Rotary.

“We so appreciate all the hard work that the entire CityScape and Streetscape committees put into beautifying the city. We’re honored to be a part of this effort,” she said as she hand the $500 check to Letson.

Letson said there isn’t a specific goal for this year’s fundraiser. Because how much CityScape will spend on the event depends on the number of volunteers – gift cards won’t be bought until registration closes – its a “chicken and egg situation.

“We don’t know how the numbers will shake out. What we do know is that we have tremendous support from the community, from businesses and donors who’ve been with us,” she said.

Even last year, she and Schulik said, donors were committed to the event. That trend isn’t expected to end any time soon.

“We have donors that send $5 or $10 and a note. We have businesses that give us several thousand dollars annually. Every donation, no matter how large or small, adds up,” Schulick said. “While support is consistent, our expenses were up last year and they might be up this year to do the things we want to do to support businesses. It’s important that our existing donors stick with us and the people who maybe haven’t given to Streetscape before think about an investment.”

Pictured at top: Youngstown CityScape Executive Director Sharon Letson and Samantha Turner, Third Ward Councilwoman and Youngstown Rotary president, present the first donation in CityScape’s annual fundraising campaign.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.