Ten year plan for Route 422 redevelopment unveiled - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Updated

Ten year plan for Route 422 redevelopment unveiled

Updated:
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

The three mile stretch of Route 422, from Girard to Youngstown, is now the focus of a major revitalization plan.

Cities and private organizations came together to fund a master plan on how to improve the corridor.

Ian Beniston from the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, says "We have quite a bit of economic development but cleaning the corridor up making it look as good as it possibly can will leverage additional job creation also stabilize the neighborhoods around here that faced some distress over the past couple decades."

John Rossi, a consultant to the Regional Chamber, says, "To have this be the focal point of the community when people get off interstate 80 people come to see YSU or go into Trumbull county is of utmost importance not only for our image but for our community pride."

The plan targets five key themes: improving the look of 422, identify areas for new industrial development, support local businesses, stabilize residential areas and improve natural areas for parks and trails.

"The plan ultimately will lead into larger infrastructure issues which may lead to economic development down the line as well as improvements to the actual roadway itself to beautify it as sort of a promenade into the cities, says Rossi.

The plan itself will be used to solicit state and federal grants and other funding to help pay for the proposed recommendations.

Organizers believe it will take a few years for everything to be realized and completed.

Below are some highlights from the study:

IMPROVE THE 422 CORRIDOR AS THE GATEWAY TO THE REGION

Remove the clutter

The entire corridor is strewn with power, telecommunications lines, wires and poles that may be out of usage. Ohio Edison and the local telephone internet service provider should be contacted to determine which lines are active and to develop a plan and cost estimate for removed the dead lines and poles.

Create a park like setting

The long term vision of the 422 corridor is one in which truck movements continue to be prioritized, but the overall appearance and feel of the street also encourages people to use it as a pedestrian and as an amenity for the land uses along it.

A continuous sidewalk and shared use path will help encourage pedestrians and cyclists to go to Downtown from work and help create a trail network that better connects neighborhoods with the Mahoning River.

A wider median and enhanced landscaping will provide the attractive front door many businesses and residents have asked for.

The sum total of these improvements will transform what is now essentially a highway into an attractive boulevard.

Improve the pedestrian experience

The vision for the corridor includes a continuous sidewalk and shared use path on the west side of the street. In theory, this would allow a pedestrian to have a safe and comfortable journey between downtown Youngstown and downtown Girard.

Work to improve public transit options and improve bicycle connections

The 422 corridor serves as an important regional connection as part of the Mahoning River Corridor Bikeway.

The challenge with building infrastructure in this area is the lack of space along the River as well as the infrastructure required to overcome the barriers created by the rail lines and the River itself.

In addition to a shared use path proposed along the west side of 422, a trail could be included alongside the River.

This new infrastructure could be used for recreational or commuting uses.

Address circulation concerns

Prohibiting u-turns at intersection of 422 with US 711. This is a constant source of concerns for residents in Brier Hill, many people make illegal u-turns coming from Burlington Street to access the 711 on ramp.

Residents expressed wanting direct access to 711 from their neighborhood to eliminate illegal u-turns, however, this is not considered a priority of the plan.

Improve gateways

By utilizing bright, simple patterns in the landscape design, gateways can cover a large amount of land area without having to use expensive plants. These patterns in the landscape can be achieved by using simple edging techniques to minimize the required maintenance for these types of interventions.

Murals and public art should also be considered when designing future gateways. Particularly, the highway overpasses present a unique opportunity to add interest and generate excitement without a ton of money.

While some lighting can be expensive, LED lights or simple solar lights should be considered to brighten up underpasses and shine light on new gateway interventions.

Create industrial buffers

Noise, truck traffic, dust, and other nuisances were all complaints cited by residents and are unfortunate consequences that go along with living so close to heavy industrial operations.

Research conducted by the Ohio Department of Transportation on different noise abatement alternatives showed that earth berms were an effective, aesthetically pleasing, and comparatively low cost alternative to other noise abatement solutions

Improve the appearance of private properties

Incentives should be given to businesses along the corridor to improve the look of their properties such as facade improvements.

Until the City has enough funds to acquire blighted properties, other enforcement measures are needed. Both Girard and Youngstown should consider amending laws to no longer allow plain plywood over open windows or doors in the building facades for commercial properties thus removing the ‘blight’ stigma that goes along with it.

Improve the nightscape

Future designs should include pedestrian scale lighting along the corridor to improve the nighttime experience and make nighttime travel safer at night

UNLOCK THE POTENTIAL OF LAND FOR JOB GROWTH

Focus on identifying the key opportunities for new industrial development

Create attractive manufacturing parks

The greater Youngstown community should give consideration to developing speculative industrial buildings that meet these requirements. The time-to-market needs of most manufacturers and distributors require pad ready sites.

Ready-to-go buildings reduce that time even further as long as the building has the flexibility to meet a variety of needs. Development of such buildings could act as a catalyst for growth.

Pursue interim uses for land

Ground mounted solar arrays have become an increasingly common form of interim use for Brownfield sites.

The mounting systems for these solar arrays do not require penetration into the soil thus limiting clean up requirements and revenue is generated from the use of the property.

Given that Ohio, and it’s energy providers including Ohio Edison, has a renewable energy portfolio standard that contains a solar “carve-out” requirement and requires a level of power generation to be conducted in state, this may be a reasonable interim alternative for some properties in the corridor.

Current projections indicate that in-state solar renewable generation needs to increase more than eight times over 2012 levels.

Maximize new development with thoughtful design

The layout of new sites themselves can have serious implications in the future of the corridor.

For instance, the opportunity site analysis has shown that although there is a lot of vacancy in the area, there isn’t necessarily a lot of room for industrial development that is cost effective throughout the corridor. Future site layout should take this into consideration by maximizing the use of space on site for industrial facilities themselves and limiting unused, ‘slack’ space.

Prohibiting barbed wire fencing in industrial parks will help to ensure these places read as inviting to the outside world. While they can be useful in shielding businesses from unwanted intruders, similar yet better designed fences can accomplish the same goals while being more aesthetically pleasing.

SUPPORT AND MARKET LOCAL BUSINESSES

Use strategies to help target resources toward new and existing businesses.

In order to support existing businesses, the Corridor needs to ensure awareness of local resources that are available to them and help them get the word out about their operations, products and services.

Create a shared voice for businesses on the corridor

In order to represent the interests of the businesses in the future of the corridor a US 422 Business Association should be established.

Increase awareness & accessibility of business support services

An important first step could be to create a “Road Show” for corridor businesses where the various providers of business support services and financing across the Mahoning Valley provide an in-corridor “road show” on services available and mechanisms to access those services. This road show could be converted initially to a booklet distributed to all corridor businesses.

Tell the story of the corridor

In order to capitalize on the energy that’s been started with this planning process, the Corridor needs to market these efforts and develop a comprehensive website. This website can help to explain the Corridor’s history, the planning process, the plan’s progress and be the focal point of the Corridor to the community.

Boost business to business collaboration

It is essential to help businesses network and tap local resources and suppliers where possible.

Make sure local businesses particularly businesses that have a potential role in a supply chain are engaged in the Check Ohio First campaign and create a local supplier network

Increase access to consumer markets

One strategy that other cities and regions have found to advertise these assets is to hold a festival dedicated to local products. In this case, a “Made in Mahoning Valley” festival could highlight local producers and increase customers to local businesses.

Become a model for sustainable industry

These types of initiatives should be celebrated and advertised to the local community.

This will improve perception of the work that’s being done in the area and increase the likelihood of attracting other green businesses to the area.

STABILIZE RESIDENTIAL AREAS

Focus on identifying and targeting investment to revitalize local neighborhoods

While many demolitions have taken place over the past 3 years, there are still vacant buildings within the study area that should be demolished, or targeted for code enforcement. The plan lists specific properties in Girard, Steelton and Brier Hill neighborhoods.

Target future land bank activities

In addition to housing stabilization, both the Mahoning County Land Bank and the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership should target acquisition of vacant properties

Transition to a more rural character

Although Brier Hill, Steelton and Parkwood neighborhoods continue to shrink, they can still grow plants.

Larger tracts of vacant land, especially those near existing forests, can help to extend the forest canopy.

A grading and planting strategy near industrial properties along route 422 will provide a visual and sound buffer for the nearby residential areas.

Address neighborhood concerns

Resources may be available through the Wean Foundation, which has partnered with community organizations to provide porch lighting grants to neighborhoods in the past.

The Streets Department should conduct a survey to locate were street signs are most needed.

Throughout the community outreach process, there has been an overwhelming request for a grocery store in Brier Hill. Even though the market cannot support such an investment at this time, other ‘grassroots’ methods to increase food access to this neighborhood may be an option. These include working to create a mobile food truck location on the corridor and in the community and tapping into local CSA / Farm Share programs.

Market individual character

The neighborhoods should start to market their local‘gems’ to promote the neighborhood and local culture. Some of these different neighborhood activities to expand upon include:

Dubic’s Palm Cafe’ on Saturdays
‘Salt Springs Bar Crawl Day’
Downtown Girard
The Brier Hill Italian Festival

ACTIVATE NATURAL ASSETS

Target improving local parks, trails and access to the Mahoning River. The planning process brought many local partners to the table with the shared goal of expanding the economy and removing blight. This plan is just the first step toward achieving that goal.

Take me to the river

US 422 should be considered a phase 1 of the trail network, as it is a cost effective greenway option along a contiguous public right of way directly connecting Downtown Girard to Downtown Youngstown.

This can serve as a connector as trails closer to the river are constructed or retrofitted over time.

Build upon other open space assets

There are limited resources to maintain open spaces.

In order to be strategic about investing where it will make the greatest difference, underutilized open spaces should be naturalized to limit the amount of infrastructure and maintenance.

The following parks are new or continued assets to the community and should be maintained as recreational amenities:

Arlington Heights Community center
Liberty Park- 90 acres
Girard Multigenerational center
Stambaugh Park

Take advantage of “industrial ruins”

Throughout the Corridor there remain remnants from the area’s industrial past.

These rusty ‘landscape follies’, or structures in the landscape that are simply there for decoration, add to the character of the corridor and can be seen from 422 and the proposed Mahoning River Trail.

Some examples include abandoned and elevated railway structures and the Erie Rail Roundhouse.

These structures are beautiful on their own and the opportunity is to call greater attention to them through creative lighting.

Other parks around the world have embraced abandoned industrial structures and transformed them into true amenities.

Preserving these elements will help to celebrate the industrial past and allow for the experience of the Corridor to be truly unique.

The idea at this time is to stabilize existing structures and clear away overgrown brush so they can play a more visible role with respect to the proposed trails.

They should also be considered geocaching locations through the Ohio Historical Society.

IMPLEMENTATION

Although the plan contains multiple strategies for YNDC and its partners to pursue, each recommendation requires a different set of partners and volunteer efforts, enabling many proposals to be addressed concurrently.

Regardless of who spearheads a given initiative, implementation of the plan will necessitate great cooperation, hard work, and persistence to ensure that resulting change delivers success to the residents, business owners, and stakeholders in the 422 corridor.

The plan outlines new investment in community programs,public infrastructure, parks, housing and retail.

It’s important to note that economic investment brings economic benefits both to the local community but also to the cities of Youngstown and Girard, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, the region and State.

Thee benefits emerge from both upfront construction and through ongoing operations, or ripple effects, that are the result of new jobs, expenditures and sales.

But to reach this potential it will be important to keep the momentum built during the planning process alive.

IMMEDIATE NEXT STEPS

1. SUBMIT THE PLAN FOR ADOPTION
2. IDENTIFY A 422 CORRIDOR PROJECT MANAGER
3. FORM 5 ACTION TEAMS
4. GET TO WORK WITH A SPRING CLEAN UP

Cleaning up the corridor ranked #1 during the priority identification exercise at the recommendations public meeting.

The surrounding neighborhood groups should partner with local businesses and Youngstown Green to kick off the plan with a cleanup of the corridor.

This will help to keep engagement levels high and make sure residents and business owners are further invested in the plan’s success.

Above are highlights from the study.

You can download entire study here.

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