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YNDC Marks Opening of Glenwood Business Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Stephanie Gilchrist eagerly led visitors Wednesday through the offices of Inspiring Minds Youngstown in the new Glenwood Business Center.

The director of the nonprofit agency, which provides tutoring, mentoring and recreational services for high school students, pointed to the still-in-progress spaces – the student lounge for studying, a technology center that will eventually have a 3D printer and vinyl press equipment, and a recreation room.

In another space she hopes to see a food preparation area, where patrons will not only learn how to fix meals for themselves but also to provide them for neighborhood seniors.

“YNDC did a beautiful job,” Gilchrist said.

The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. developed the building at 2246 Glenwood Ave., where Inspiring Minds relocated this week. Joined by several community partners, YNDC celebrated the opening of the Glenwood Business Center.

On hand were representatives of Wells Fargo & Co. and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which in June awarded YNDC a $150,000 Community Wins grant. The grant program recognizes nonprofit agencies and cities for leadership in driving neighborhood stabilization, economic development and job creation efforts.

YNDC, with city support, applied for the grant.

“This was a great project and it couldn’t have been done without that award,” said Ian Beniston, YNDC’s executive director.

“We didn’t want another vacant commercial building along Glenwood Avenue,” Beniston said. “We also knew from talking with the city, residents, business owners and community organizations that there needs to be high-quality commercial space along the neighborhood corridors whether that be for community organizations or businesses.”

Among YNDC’s partners is the Western Reserve Port Authority, which acquired the building in May from the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley with the intent of selling it to YNDC in 18 months. The grant allowed YNDC to acquire the building ahead of schedule.

“This is one of many examples of what we can do when we work together,” Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said. Brown came across information about the Wells Fargo grant program during a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting last winter.

Youngstown was one of six communities selected among 188 applicants to receive grant funds in the competition this year.

Stabilizing the city’s “distressed and transitional neighborhoods is becoming a reality” with Brown’s and YNDC’s leadership, said Dave Croutch, manager of Wells Fargo’s Canfield office.

Other cities have applied for the funds year after year, and Youngstown’s application succeeded on the first try, said Eugene Lowe, assistant executive director for the mayors’ group. “They were trying to accomplish something that was big, that was impressive and that would be good for years to come,” he said.

The Ursuline Center is leasing one of the site’s warehouse properties for some of its ministries, and another warehouse space remains available, Beniston said. There had been discussions with Dough House Cookies owner Taree Avery about leasing space to expand her business, but the need for commercial baking equipment made YNDC’s commercial kitchen at Iron Roots Farm more practical.

Acquisition and renovations have cost about $275,000 to date.

One problem small businesses face is they lack the capacity to take on renovating commercial properties, said T. Sharon Woodberry, director of community planning and economic development for the city. She approached Beniston about a year ago regarding the prospect of YNDC applying its model for acquiring and rehabilitating residential properties to commercial sites.

“When they identified this structure, we thought this was a great start,” she said. “We’ll continue to have conversations and see what other buildings and locations might be a good fit.”

Pictured: Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown; Ian Beniston, executive director of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.; and Michele Cicciari, manager of Wells Fargo’s Akron Complex. 

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.