View the New Lincoln Avenue (Beneath the Snow)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – There wasn’t much to see at the ribbon cutting Thursday that celebrated the near-completion of the Lincoln Avenue renovation project. The snow Wednesday night that continued into the bitterly cold morning made sure of it.

But underneath the thin layer of white that covered all of the Youngstown State University campus, work was almost completed on the repaving and beautification project that started in August.

“Trust us, everything underneath the snow looks fantastic,” said Mayor John McNally with a laugh inside Cushwa Hall. “Most of the improvements you won’t be able to see until this snow melts, but the roadwork is complete.”

Among the changes made to the street on the southern side of the campus were shifting on-street parking to one side, more clearly defined crosswalks and improved storm sewers. Cost of the project is just under $1.5 million. Parella-Pannunzio Inc. served as contractors.

The goal, McNally said, is to have Lincoln Avenue from Phelps Street to Fifth Avenue reopened to pedestrians and traffic by the end of today. The section that links Wick Avenue and Phelps will remain closed until the work on Wick is finished.

The No. 1 purpose of the project was to improve student safety, YSU President Jim Tressel said. For years, parking was allowed on both sides of the street and no signage for crosswalks left students darting from side to side trying to avoid traffic.

“I know the lighting will be better. I know it’ll be better for pedestrian traffic. I know it will benefit us in terms of safety,” said YSU Student Government Association President Tyler Miller-Gordon.

Another part of the effort is improving the appearance of the area. Sidewalks have been replaced and the crosswalks are now marked in red brick to contrast with the new black pavement. In spring, trees will be planted to add some color to the street.

“They told us we could plant them in any month that has an R in it,” Tressel said. “But looking around right now, it looks like we’ll have to wait until spring.”

The first steps for the project were taken nearly a decade ago, McNally said, when studies on pedestrian safety and safety enhancements were done on the avenue. Then, about three years ago, Tressel and McNally met at a McDonald’s in Kent and, among other things, discussed the project and made it a priority.

“Anything we can do to enhance the experience of our current students will do a lot when the next group comes in and asks if [YSU] is a place they’re proud of,” Tressel said. “And then there are people from outside the area, where this will be their first impression. … It will bring a feel of a real campus atmosphere.”

The improvements are part of an effort to make the university more attractive to the next generation of students, the president noted.

Alongside the Lincoln Avenue project, work is being done on Wick Avenue to improve that corridor. As part of the project, work will begin on The Enclave, a 194-bed apartment building for students with 11,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the corner of Lincoln and Wick.

In downtown, financing is nearing completion on the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in the Stambaugh Building and an amphitheater along the Mahoning River is in the design phase.

“It’s important not only to the campus environment that President Tressel is pushing, but also the perception of Youngstown itself,” McNally said. “When students are coming here with their parents thinking about going to school at Youngstown State, you want them to feel comfortable. I look more and more at the city as completely connected through what we’re trying to get done. Being two blocks up the hill shouldn’t separate the campus from downtown.”

In the coming years, Rayen Avenue will be resurfaced – most likely in either 2019 or 2020, the mayor said – and a project to remake the Fifth Avenue corridor similar to the Lincoln project. The Fifth Avenue effort, stretching from St. Elizabeth Health Center to Mill Creek Park, would be funded through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. YSU and the city applied earlier and were not chosen as recipients, but were invited to apply again.

All of the projects across the city, McNally noted, are geared toward making coming to Youngstown, “a better experience.”

With the announcement of projects both on-campus and downtown, students are starting to take notice. Although several projects are underway and in various states of completion, Lincoln Avenue serves as a sign of the work being put in, said Student Government Vice President Gabriella Gessler.

“Integrating the two communities has been a wonderful thing and brought a lot of opportunities to students here on campus,” she said at the Lincoln Avenue ribbon cutting. “Beautification projects show the care of the university, that they’re providing the best spaces for students, whether it’s the some place to walk or in a classroom.”

Pictured at the ribbon cutting: YSU President Jim Tressel, student government officers Tyler Miller-Gordon and Gabriella Gessler, and Mayor John McNally.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.