Our Towns

YNDC Brings Airbnb ‘Hotels’ to Idora Neighborhood

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In the Idora neighborhood is the first public lodging in nearly 20 years available to travelers looking to stay overnight in the city of Youngstown.

The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. has become the landlord of two rehabilitated houses that are Airbnb units at 866 and 928 Canfield Road, the first called Revitalize Residence, the second Idora Inn.

“This gives an opportunity for people who are visiting the city to actually stay in the city, in one of the neighborhoods, and get a great feel for what Youngstown is all about,” says Tiffany Sokol, housing director for the YNDC.

At one time, hotels such as the Pick-Ohio, Hotel Youngstown and the Tod put up visitors to Youngstown. But the city has lacked such lodging since the Wick Pollock Inn closed in 1998.

Airbnb Inc. (originally known as Airbed and Breakfast) is a “community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world,” says its website. Customers register online and can connect to more than 800,000 listings in 192 countries.

The company charges guests a 6% to 12% nonrefundable fee when they book and a 3% processing charge.

Airbnb has one of the highest valuations, $30 billion in 2016, of any startup in the world.

Unlike traditional hotels, Airbnb units are often in the heart of residential areas. Private owners rent accommodations that range from small apartments to mansions, even castles.

YNDC, which promotes homeownership as part of its neighborhood improvement programs, acquired 928 Canfield Road, a triplex, several years ago. It never intended to become a landlord of the property with high visibility in a heavily trafficked area.

“If we didn’t acquire the property, it would have stayed in the hands of the slumlord who owned it, or it would have been acquired by another slumlord, or it would have been demolished,” Sokol says. “And because of its place on the corridor, it would be really awkward to have a dead space there.”

Adds YNDC Executive Director Ian Beniston, “People threw out the idea that we should have a bed and breakfast or something like that. And while we can’t do that yet, this has kind of been a test to see if there’s a market for people looking to stay here.”

Renovations on the house at 928 Canfield Road began in November 2015 and the first Airbnb guests began arriving in early spring 2016. The Airbnb unit is a one-bedroom apartment on the third floor. The other two units are traditional rentals. Known as the Idora Inn, it’s “popular beyond our expectations,” Beniston says.

YNDC soon added the Revitalize Residence, 866 Canfield Road. Originally designated to house only AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers who come to work with YNDC for six- to eight-week stretches, it is transformed into an Airbnb unit when AmeriCorps members depart.

Columbus resident Jessica Valsi, a veteran of Airbnb both domestically and internationally, stayed at the Idora Inn in 2016.

“It was so nice,” Valsi states. “I really enjoy just being in a neighborhood, which feels so much nicer than a sanitized hotel experience.”

High-profile guests have also stayed at the YNDC Airbnb units. Jay Williams, a former mayor and outgoing U.S. Department of Commerce assistant secretary for economic development, is listed with a profile photo as a reviewer of the Idora Inn on Airbnb.com under the name “Roy.”

Unlike some Airbnb accommodations, both units are totally private. YNDC uses a self check-in system, so travelers can arrive anytime and get access to their rooms.

Both units include kitchen amenities as well as Wi-Fi and Netflix. The Revitalize Residence offers two bedrooms, the Idora Inn one bedroom with two beds.

Prices are $85 a night for the Idora Inn and $100 a night for the Revitalize Residence, but the YNDC is willing to negotiate extended-stay rates.

Fees from the Airbnb units go directly to help support YNDC programs. They rehabilitate and sell houses in the Idora neighborhood and in other sections of the city, part of its long-range neighborhood revitalization efforts.

Beniston views the Airbnb program as another YNDC success story in the Idora area: “It has added value to the neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods because people are able to come in here and stay. They’re able to visit the park — plus they are able to support our work here in the city.”
Pictured: A bedroom in the Idora Inn.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.