Youngstown Design Committee Approves Concept for Motivational Murals

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city’s Design Review Committee today gave conceptual approval for a proposed series of typographic murals around downtown that would feature motivational messages.  

Jesse Reed, a Brooklyn-based graphic designer who grew up in Liberty Township, proposed the murals, which would take the word “You” from “Youngstown” to create messages such as “You Can” or “You Will.” Eventually, the murals could be put up across the city.

These motivational phrases would use the typeface plaza grotesque. Reed said he designed the typeface, which is inspired by the city’s industrial landscape and takes its name from Liberty’s Plaza Donuts. The phrases could be featured on publicly controlled spaces as well as privately owned locations with the owners’ permission. 

Youngstown has done similar things before, as with the City of You campaign.  

“This is not something that is entirely revolutionary,” Reed said.    

Among the proposed locations he put forth were the archway over Mahoning Avenue heading into downtown and the railroad overpass controlled by CSX also over Mahoning. The lettering would be about 10 feet tall.   

“I passed under [the archway] every day when I lived in Youngstown. It will get a lot of visibility,” he said. 

Committee members generally were supportive of the concept. 

Hunter Morrison, an urban planning consultant who works for the city and conducted the meeting, complimented Reed on the typeface design, which has “some real depth to it,” he said. 

“The first thing that came to mind is bended metal,” he said. “It has a real depth to it. You’ve come up with something that resonates with the Steel Valley.”  

Committee members Nikki Posterli, director of community planning and economic development, and Nick Chretien, program manager for Economic Action Group, both praised the concept. 

“It really strives to be what we really want to be,” Chretien said. 

“We need some subliminal messages that send something positive,” Posterli added. 

Charles Shasho, Youngstown deputy director of public works, shared the sole dissenting comments regarding the proposal and cast the lone vote against approving the concept. 

“The message and the font [are] really nice. I just think it’s too big,” he said. “I’m just not a fan of murals in general.” 

Shasho also voiced his objection to attempting to use the railroad overpass, which would require approval from CSX. Based on past experience, “That would be a task,” he said. 

After Posterli argued against taking a “piecemeal” approach, the committee backed off a plan to approve the design for the Mahoning Avenue archway and conceptually for other locations to be determined later.

“I don’t want to blanket approve it. It needs to be strategic,” she said. 

Morrison suggested Reed come back to the committee with specific locations to review within the committee’s area of jurisdiction, which covers the downtown area, including indications of property owners’ willingness to participate. 

Reed said he would be in Youngstown next month at which point he would be able to do in-person scouting for potential locations. 

At the meeting, the committee also approved the installation of a new sign for Avalon Downtown, which will begin as soon as a building permit for it is received, said Kirk Kreuzwieser, project architect with Strollo Architects. Contractors are doing interior work on the building, 15 and 17 West Federal St., he said. 

A rendering of the proposed sign for Avalon Downtown.

The committee approved installation of new signage for the downtown restaurant against a cream-colored background, approximately 10 feet by 10 feet, centered on the 17 W. Federal portion of the structure. The word “Avalon,” in script letters, would be outlined by white LED lighting, while “Downtown,” in block letters, would not be lit.

It will hang above a pergola being added to the building that the committee approved last month as part of several exterior upgrades. The sign would replace the smaller neon-lit sign now above the restaurant’s main entrance, Kreuzwieser said.  

Pictured: Renderings of two of the proposed murals by graphic designer Jesse Reed.

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