Visions of Revitalized East Liverpool Unveiled at Open House

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – An ambitious urban revitalization plan aimed at breathing new life into the city was unveiled to the public Thursday afternoon by a Pittsburgh design firm. 
During a two-hour open house at the former Army Surplus Store on East Sixth Street, members of Urban Design Associates explained the vision they have for the city, which they say is ripe for revitalization.

“It’s a gem,” said UDA Chairman Eric Osth, pointing to the quality of the downtown’s many historic buildings, its wide streets and other aspects he believes are attractive to both developers and visitors. 

City Council hired Urban Design Associates at the request of Mayor Greg Bricker.

Councilman John Mercer was present for the open house. “I’m very excited they bid on this project. They’re very well known in their field,” he said.

Osth said the company has completed revitalization projects throughout the country, including in Cincinnati, Chattanooga, Nashville, Charlotte and the West Coast. UDA also did the master plan for Paradise, California, following devastating wildfires there. Closer to home, UDA was responsible for the 2004 master plan that revitalized nearby Midland, Pa.

The company has been in business since 1964. Osth said coming into a community from outside the area allows UDA to see things objectively.

There are three steps to the plan for revitalizing East Liverpool, and the first was listening to officials and business owners, he continued.

The second step, testing out some ideas, was accomplished with Thursday’s open house, allowing the public to envision what can potentially be in the city’s future.

UDA Chairman Eric Osth confers with business leader Frank Dawson.

“We just kind of sketched out what it could be,” Osth said. “We like to draw things and show what it can look like instead of just talking about it.”

Chief illustrator David Csont rendered several drawings showing how the primary areas of the downtown might be transformed into a bustling area filled with restaurants, open spaces, historic buildings with facade improvements, outdoor seating, new lighting and colorful murals.

“It’s like an undiscovered country,” Csont said of the city’s potential.

Osth said Devon’s Diamond, essentially the center of the city, “is what every city wants,” and there is an opportunity to create a memorable open space there. “I think the Diamond can return to what it once was,” he said.

Existing structures, such as the landmark Thompson Building, which Osth called a “treasure,” need to remain part of the cityscape, he emphasized.

The historic building in which the open house was held is owned by Mayor Bricker, who recently announced plans to renovate it and expand his adjacent cafeteria business to include event space.

One of the greatest challenges, according to Osth, is not feeling the presence of the Ohio River from the downtown area due to the highway causing a disconnect between the two. Drawings showed plans for signage on Broadway Street emphasizing access to the river, as well as major improvements to the Broadway Wharf.

A sketch of improvements to the Broadway Wharf area.

Thursday’s event was an “important step” in the process, according to Osth, who said it provided an opportunity for people to see what can be and to attract potential developers.

“We’re hoping sharing these materials today will attract investment, both private and public, in the downtown. A lot of developers are interested in East Liverpool. They may not be able to visualize what it can be. Opportunities like this are helping people see what it can be.”

Printed materials about the revitalization will be made available to potential developers, and Osth said they will most likely be included on the city’s webpage as well. 

The final step in the process, actually moving forward with recommendations to the city for starting the revitalization, will be forthcoming.

Although Osth agreed it may seem like a massive undertaking, the project it is doable. He cautioned, however, that everyone needs to realize urban revitalization does not happen overnight.

UDA’s recommendations should be finalized by the end of June, in time for the city’s All Class Reunion, when thousands of alumni will return and can see the plans.

Referring to those who stopped in at the open house, Osth said, “I think everybody was very excited. Everybody’s been very positive.”

Pictured:

PIctured: Illustration by David Csont of Urban Design Associates shows how colorful murals could be part of the urban revitalization plan being eyed for East Liverpool.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.