YOUNGSTOWN - As possible plans and strategies for the state Route 422 corridor redevelopment plan began coming to light Tuesday night, residents and county officials displayed cautious optimism with the findings.
Philadelphia-based Interface Studio held the public meeting after spending the past seven months identifying the best potential steps to improve the 3,500-acre corridor along the Mahoning River from Girard into Youngstown.
According to Scott Page, Interface founder, the study has found at least 18 feasible measures that, if implemented, could result in the corridor being a draw for outside businesses as well as a source of pride for the community.
"We still have work tonight in terms of fine tuning and making sure we're identifying the priorities," Page said. "But, residents are helping us do that."
The proposals ran the gamut from cost-efficient strategies like comprehensive removal of clutter along the corridor to more costly endeavors such as building new sidewalks, improving gateways and adding industrial buffers for nearby neighborhoods.
"Just things as simple as cleaning things up is always a good first step," Page said.
According to Page, the study - which cost about $120,000 - is similar to redevelopment strategies his group has devised in St. Paul, Minn., Louisville, Ky., and Philadelphia.
A draft of the study will likely be released in the next month, Page said.
"In the meantime, we will start looking at some physical improvements that can be done. And then you end up playing acupunturist, figuring exactly the right spots to hit and when to do it."
Some of the plans could be implemented this year, he said.
After discussing the strategies in detail, each attendee was asked to rank their respective top three improvement projects that should be prioritized.
Girard resident Cosmo Signoriello said he would like decision makers to focus on fixing the blight, infrastructure along the roadway and general beautification of the corridor.
"It looks like they did a good job," Signoriello said. "Obviously, it is still in the premature phases. I'm curious to see where they're going to be able to pull in the money for the fundraising."
Page said funding for the projects could come from both public funds, including state and federal grants, as well as private fundraising and local businesses.
Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda expects the work to secure funding to begin with the release of Interface's findings.
"It's up to the people involved here to go after the federal and state funding that may be available," Fuda said. "Anything we do, it's a matter of getting the right people to fight hard for those funds. If you do that, it will happen.
"They're probably going to have to use our congressmen and senators, like (Rep. Tim) Ryan (D-Niles) and other elected officials."
According to Fuda, that partnership should make grant approval enticing to the state.
"Our governor right now is looking for regionalization and a lot of the money the state is willing to spend is for people working together," he said. "That's what Trumbull and Mahoning counties are doing here."
Meanwhile, Youngstown resident Jamie Hayes liked much of what she heard at the meeting, but she also wants to be sure the area neighborhoods are not adversely affected.
"Some of the things they talked about seem to me to be extremely expensive and a lot of the places they're talking about doing these things are very deprived of money right now in terms of the tax base," Hayes said. "They've done a lot of work here and put a lot of energy into it, but I just don't want the citizens to be caught up in the middle of something without completely understanding it."
The redevelopment plan is being spearheaded by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, and the Trumbull County Planning Commission, along with 14 other public and private funding partners.
The funding for the Interface study originated from about 50 different sources, according to Page, including land banks in both counties; grants from the Raymond Wean Foundation, the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio and the Youngstown Foundation; the cities of Youngstown and Girard; the Western Reserve Port Authority; Youngstown and Trumbull County Metropolitan Housing Authorities; Girard Community Improvement Corporation; Trumbull commissioners; and Vallourec Star.