There are bright spots, both old and new, in the West Ed of downtown Youngstown.
There's the George V. Voinovich state office building on Federal Plaza West, which sits in the shadow of the Youngstown Center of Industry and Labor (the steel museum, designed by Sir Michael Graves]. There's the Youngstown Symphony Center, as magnificent today as it was 75 years ago when it was built as a Warner Brothers theater -- perhaps even more magnificent now because of its uniqueness.
And there is the Youngstown Business Incubator, an older building that has gotten new life as a place where young companies with new ideas can thrive. And there is the landmark Home Savings and Loan Building.
But scattered among these vibrant West End structures are some buildings still awaiting renovation and some whose chance for renovation has passed. An opportunity has presented itself that would go a long way toward completing the rehabilitation of the western end of Federal Plaza. At the same time, it would provide a Mahoning County agency with the modern offices and space it needs to do its important work.
Seven vacant and deteriorate buildings would be demolished by the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. in the old Masters Tuxedo block across from the WRTA terminal. On that site would be built a new office building to house the Mahoning County Children Services Board, which has to move from the county-owned South Side Annex on Market Street.
Enhanced downtown: This project would provide the downtown area with another new building and would provide CSB with office space designed to its specifications.
As we noted in a recent editorial about Cleveland losing its last downtown department store, the nature of downtown areas is changing. Downtown Youngstown has the Symphony Center, which is being renovated and is expanding, it has a few restaurants and it may be getting an arena. There are financial institutions, offices and a small number of shops.
But clearly government offices and government services are the downtown anchor, from the state office building to the Mahoning County Courthouse to City Hall to the Mahoning County Jail. Bringing the offices of the Children Services Board into this circle makes perfect sense.
A cooperative effort between the CIC, which is overseen by a board of public officials and private citizens, and the CSB and Mahoning County Commissioners can take a blighted block of downtown real estate and turn it into an important asset. Such win-win opportunities do not come along often, and this one should not be missed.