This is the Rust Belt. The phrase - whether you see it as positive or negative - is indicative of history, working-class struggles, diversity, and a sort of camaraderie among people trying to make it in a part of the country long primed for a comeback. And not just in sports.
I know that in Youngstown, where I live, people of all ages got caught up in Pro-Yo fever.
One of the focuses of this energy is the fight against blight.
I see the results on my own street. A lot across from my house that was once filled with hundreds of old tires when I moved in is now a community garden, complete with a huge hoop greenhouse.
Friends of mine work with Stand Up, Fight Blight, cruising the streets in their revamped bread delivery truck, taking down falling-apart garages with sledgehammers. That's some can-do and a half. I grew up in Warren, which also is having problems with blight. Similar efforts are being made there.
Everyone wants Youngstown and Warren to be thriving, if not smaller, cities. Everyone wants exemplary jobs, nightlife, schools and infrastructure. And, everyone wants to stop the "brain drain" of people high-tailing it out of town.
Back to those demolished houses. It seems like half the city is either vacant lots or houses on the demolition list. When they're gone, what will replace them? Gardens are great, but the city can only have so many.
My point: If Youngs-town is to attract businesses and people to take part in this renaissance, and keep YSU?graduates in the city, where is everyone going to live?
One is hard-pressed to find a house or apartment in the city that is less than 60 years old. Yes, these old houses are beautiful. I adore my rented house from 1908, but am unable to buy and restore it.
New residential structures are largely campus housing or downtown apartments and condos. If a family wanted to relocate to the city, they would have to take a risk on an older house, take on a major renovation project, or live downtown and deal with parking drama.
There are plenty of gorgeous old houses ready to go. I was torturing myself on Zillow checking out the beautiful woodwork. But not everyone wants to live in a house built during the Roosevelt administration Teddy or Frank.
I've seen friends with families try to find a suitable newer home in the city in order to support the cause, but ultimately had to choose the suburbs.
If the shale keeps booming, or the 3-D printing hub takes off like predicted, homes will be in demand. Youngstown would be well advised to attract some newer housing.
Before anything is built, small areas could be planned where working singles or families can take up residence - areas once filled with eyesores, made safer and more accessible to what the city has to offer, and kept safe and clean.
Cities, neighborhood groups, and the land bank can all work together to plan for any new housing; or else, young professionals and families will continue to run to the suburbs, and pay taxes there.
What do you think of the blight flight? Share ideas with me at ssepanek@ tribtoday.com, or comment on this story at www.tribtoday.com.