YMCA Outlines Plans for Potential Austintown Branch

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – If the YMCA of Youngstown reaches its fundraising goal, a branch could be coming to Austintown, Timothy Hilk, president and CEO of the Youngstown Y, announced Friday morning.

So far, the Growing Together fundraising campaign has raised $8.6 million, just over half of the $17 million goal. About $5 million from the campaign will be used to renovate the Central YMCA in downtown Youngstown and the rest will fund construction of the proposed Austintown branch, now named the Meander Creek YMCA.

“We want to open in fall of 2017 and we’re about halfway to our goal,” Hilk said at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning, Austintown breakfast. “If we can get to about $14 million or $15 million this summer, then we can go ahead and hire the architects and get this project under way.”

The event was held at Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.

A formal announcement won’t come for some time so as not “to get people too excited,” he added.

“The message is that we’ll come if we succeed in this fundraising campaign,” he said. “We hope to let the community, this summer, know one way or another whether or not we believe this will be successful.”

The Meander Creek Y will be built on the corner of Mahoning Avenue and Victoria Road. The site, donated by Sam Boak, owner of Boak & Sons Inc. in Austintown, is about 15 acres, with room for future expansions of the new Y branch.

Hilk said the demand for a YMCA on the western side of the county has existed for years, at least as far as back as his presidency began five years ago, and discussions to expand to the township have been almost constant among patrons.

“There’s a need for the kind of services that the YMCA provides in western Mahoning County,” the president said. “There’s not a swimming pool or aquatics facility or the kinds of programs you’d run at a pool. And with healthy living programs, the Y is one of the leading organizations in combating chronic disease.”

While an official design of the building hasn’t been drafted, Youngstown YMCA have shown some renderings to donors. Members can expect a center very similar to the D.D. and Velma Davis Family YMCA in Boardman.

“The best vision tour anyone can do is to walk through our Boardman facility,” Hilk said. “Our goal right now is to build a YMCA similar in size and scope to the original Davis YMCA in Boardman.”

When it opened in 2003, the Davis Y was 75,000 square feet and has been expanded several times since.

In 2015, a Planet Fitness gym moved into Austintown Plaza, just under a mile from the YMCA’s site. The addition won’t pose a threat to attendance at the Y – Hilk expects between 14,000 and 18,000 members at that branch – because the two have different missions and offerings.

There’s also a Planet Fitness in Boardman, albeit further from the Davis Family YMCA, but the two entities seem to coexist without issues, the president said.

“We’re successful in Boardman and they seem to be successful in Boardman. It’s not necessarily a concern for the folks at Planet Fitness or at the Y,” he said.

Also speaking at he chamber event was Dan Desalvo, a representative of P&S Equities, which operates the Austintown Plaza. Business in the township has changed in the 20-plus years since Desalvo joined the company, including the shift toward destination tenants.

“Business here has changed based on how it has globally and nationally, along with how retail has changed in terms of how we buy and where we go to buy things,” he explained.

Whereas areas like Boardman, with the U.S. Route 224 corridor, and Niles, with the U.S. Route 422 and the Eastwood Mall, attract businesses Desalvo referred to as “impulse stores,” Austintown has increasingly become home to stores like Pat Catan’s and Planet Fitness or even health-care centers and financial institutions.

That trend, he added, will continue well into the future.

“This market is a niche play for businesses and there are categories that aren’t being fulfilled, such as food and health care,” he said. “We’re going to go after people that we know can make money. It’s just a matter of convincing them.”

Last year, Meijer, a Michigan-based grocery and retail chain, signed a letter of intent with Austintown Local Schools to purchase the district’s property at 5800 Mahoning Ave. A settlement with the Fitch descendants was recently reached, superintendent Vince Colaluca and treasurer Mary Ann Herschel announced. A purchase agreement with the chain should be reached by February.

More than 70 houses were demolished along the main corridors in Austintown last year, trustee Jim Davis said, part of the township’s effort to combat blight.

“We want to be aggressive so that if you have your business here, it’s inviting for outside communities to come spend money at your business,” he said.

Pictured: Timothy Hilk, president and CEO of the YMCA of Youngstown.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.