This weekend, the Ohio chapter of the Ohio Institute of Architects are converging in Youngstown, as highlighted in this article in the Business Journal. And although the article mostly talks about emerging, environmental-friendly architectural techniques, one of its opening quotes, downtown-based architect Ronald Faniro noting that “Youngstown is a re-emerging city”, made me reflect on how different Youngstown is now.
Think back about six years, to 2000. Think about how Federal Plaza was still there, right in the middle of everything. The single fact that that no longer exists; that you can go down the Market St. bridge and make a left turn onto W. Federal is, to me, immense progress.
Now think back to 2000 again, only this time recall the nightlife at the time. BW3 and Cedar’s were there, and so was Anthony’s and Plaza Cafe, but that was about the extent of bars and restaurants in the area. Now there’s Imbibe, Barley’s, Core, Draught House, Old Precinct, and C. Staples to name a few, in addition to the first three afformentioned.
Recall 20 Federal Place still went by its former name, Phar-Mor Centre. Since that time, downtown has managed to cover the scar Mickey Monus gave us with that company name. And since we’re on that subject, remember we were still feretting out the mafia around this time, and that Jim Trafficant was still a member of congress and not selling artwork from prison off the internet.
Remember all the buildings that sat vacant, and while I do take issue with the Voinovich Center and the Childrens Services buildings, they’re certainly much better than the vacant department stores that sat unoccupied at the time.
Reflect for a moment on the little things as well. Remember those ugly bouquetes of lights and the concrete circular benches that surrounded Central Square? Do you know how much of a difference that makes, not having them there anymore? I, for one, think the new lights and benches are a lot more pleasant to pass by.
Lastly, remember not looking at the Chevrolet Centre. Remember when a hockey team, or an arena football dream, or concerts which weren’t performed by the Symphony were either a pipe dream, or for the latter, an extremely rare occurance.
Merely reading that quote made all these things come to mind. This realization is, in short, powerful. Every improvement that downtown has made further confirms that Youngstown is for real; that they are in fact seriously committed in their revitalization efforts. The downtown we see at present is not what a lot of people remember, but at the same time it is not what it will ultimately become. The area’s made amazing strides in a relatively short span of time. Not just in terms of construction and beautification, but also in terms of proving people wrong. There are people, and they extend beyond internet forums like dems17.org, who can’t think positively; that thinking realistically means thinking downtown will fail no matter what. And though they’ll always find some sort of fodder to bring down the area, I can never do without these naysayers, because it is them that make me believe even more that downtown can succeed in becoming a viable place to go to and in defying everybody’s expectations.
The anti-Youngstown crowd may not admit it, but I think everyone can agree downtown has done more in these past four to six years than anyone around here ever thought they could accomplish. It is only the beginning though, and I am very much interested in seeing what else downtown will accomplish in the next six year span.