Economic Development

Shovels Turn for $12M Workforce, Cultural Center

CAMPBELL, Ohio – What began two years ago as a discussion over a new space for the Campbell branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County has evolved into a project that’s much larger in scope and purpose.

Construction has begun on what is an estimated $12 million Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center at the campus of the Campbell Middle School at Community Circle Road. The project should be completed by the spring of 2020.

“We celebrate leadership, innovation and most importantly, opportunity,” Matthew Bowen, superintendent of Campbell City Schools told guests during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday. “We must recruit and retain our talent here in order to create the best quality of life for all community members of all ages.”

The project is significant in that not only will the building serve as the new site for the library, it will also provide space for the Valley Me+2 STEM Academy, Southwoods Health, Eastern Gateway Community College, Stark State Community College and other potential users.

The idea is to create a center that provides students with early college and workforce experiences, while at the same time encourage health and wellness across the community, he noted.

“It will also create opportunities for training for our adults through our collaborative with business and higher education partners,” Bowen said. “We will truly benefit off each other’s partnerships.”

Bowen estimated the entire cost of the project at $12 million, but that could change since bids have not gone out. The volatile part of construction end of the project is the cost of steel.

The center received $300,000 in funding through the state of Ohio’s biennial budgets, another $525,000 up front from the library and $9 million from the Qualified Zone Academy Bond initiative — a federal program that ended in December 2017 that awards education projects funds at a 0% interest over a 15-year term. The program was made available to lower income school districts that operate in distressed areas

The Campbell center was the final project in the country to be awarded funding through the QZAB program, Bowen said. It also received the largest allocation in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

“We’ve done this without any levy or bond issue, so there’s no burden on taxpayers,” Bowen said. “We’ve truly done this through outside funding sources.”

The project is exploring other grant opportunities to offset costs such as personnel or management for the center, he said.

Revenue generated from the center’s tenants, membership and local use rentals would be enough to cover the debt service, Bowen said.

“Through the enrollment of Valley STEM, in addition to the facility use agreements we’ve secured with our partners, the building will pay for itself over the 15-year term,” he noted.

The Me+2 STEM Academy, based in Canfield, is open to 9th and 10th grades throughout the region. The school would operate a satellite location at the new center and target 7th and 8th grade students. Should the Canfield site reach capacity, additional space would be made available at the new center for the 9th and 10th grades.

The center is truly a multi-purpose facility, said Tracie Kaglic, president of Olsavsky Jaminet Architects in Youngstown, the architectural firm that designed the project. Aside from the STEM Academy, the building will have a conference center and a 21,000-square-foot gymnasium and a wellness center for community members.

“The school owns it, and they will run all of the operations for it,” she said.

The public library will have an important presence in the center, said its director, Aimee Fifarek.

“The library has 3,200 square feet, so we’re really looking forward to re-opening our main Campbell library,” she said. Currently, the library operates from the Campbell School District’s field house. The original building was beset with structural issues and had to close several years ago.

“This came along as an option and we were very happy to join,” Fifarek said. “It will be a full service library, but we’re going to be contributing to the STEM focus of the building by offering kindergarten through sixth grade STEM education.”

Fifarek said the new library places special emphasis on hands-on maker space equipment – not just 3D printers – but basic building essentials such as blocks and even robots. “Things that help kids play games but build these skills,” she said. “It’s not all computer chips.”

The recreation area consists of a 160-meter track and a double gymnasium that could host athletic events that would bring in additional revenue for the building and potential patrons, Bowen added. “They’re going to see the facility, and draw in foot traffic,” he said.

Now that ground is broken on the project, the real work begins, Bowen noted.

“There’s a lot more consideration of training, professional development, mapping out curriculum – it still needs to be refined,” Bowen said. “It does feel good, it’s been a lot of work over the last two years.”

Pictured: Rick Gozur Sr., board of education member for Campbell City Schools; Matthew Bowen, Campbell City Schools superintendent; Bill Valentino, board of education president; and Beth Donofrio, board of education member.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.