In the recent past, whenever the need for a new government service building has arose, the location they all seem to end up at is somewhere on West Federal Street (exception: Tax Court, at the corner of Commerce and Wick), in an effort to breathe some life back into what was once Youngstown’s “main street”.
This is nice in a way, since these buildings allow for the destruction of unused, dilapidated buildings that would otherwise fall into greater states of disrepair. However, many of these buildings’ architecture leaves a lot to be desired,and simply building more government buildings on Federal shuns the private sector, and every new government building constructed takes away another opportunity for a retail store or a bar or restaurant to open up.
It is somewhat encouraging to know the Youngstown Business Incubator has bought three vacant buildings that will be demolished and re-built into expanded office space for its companies. What I’m concerned about though, is given the way the wave of new buildings in the area have been constructed, the new building, which will be three floors, will be nothing special, and visually will be no better than the current vacant buildings.
In fact, I think the unused buildings are actually better to look at than these new ones. Given they were constructed so long ago, at least they feature more interesting architecture and more details as far as designs are concerned. In short, they produce an old-time feeling. On the contrary, the new buildings provoke absolutely no emotion or comment when you look at them. The Voinovich Center and the Childrens Services buildings in particular, feature horribly bland designs, and feature even less character than the office-park buildings that cluster at the border of Boardman and Canfield on Rt. 224.
In terms of building design, the new Court of Appeals is a step up. But I’m not willing to settle right there. This is Downtown Youngstown. This is supposed to be the face, the focal point of the Mahoning Valley, and even though we’re going to have to climb up the hill backwards on it, we’re on the right track to make downtown that way again.
Now, there are some very beautiful buildings downtown. The Metropolitan Tower, the Wick Building and all the other high rises around the square, the County Courthouse, the Masonic Temple, Powers Auditorium; they’re all amazing structures and are wonderful representatives of the era they were constructed in. But when we build new structures, make them contribute to the architectural beauty of the area, not take away from it. New buildings in downtown don’t have to be tall, they don’t have to be that big either. But let them have some character; let them be designed and built so that when one is downtown, it gives them a sense that they’re someplace special, a location unlike any other in the area.