Move from Boardman into the city reawakened community ambience

YOUNGSTOWN -- H. William Lawson moved from Boardman to Youngstown three years ago.
"It's been a good experience," said the director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
Lawson moved to Eleanor Avenue on the city's near West Side -- the really near West Side. "I can see downtown from my attic windows," Lawson said.
He's now involved professionally with a plan to develop the Smoky Hollow area to draw more people to the city. But there were several reasons for his move, including good, affordable housing.
The historian has a very short drive to work but is close to U.S. Route 680 if he needs to hit the road.
"It's convenient," Lawson said.
He's two blocks from Mill Creek Park, where he walks and also goes fishing with his children. He says he's had great service by the city over a sewer gas problem.
His sole run-in with crime has been the theft of a few bulbs on a Christmas decoration.
In many new suburban homes, the garage is the closest to the street and the first thing visitors see. In Lawson's neighborhood, the garage is out back on a corner of the lot. In his neighborhood, the homes are all 20 feet off the street and have big front porches.
In warm weather, Lawson said, "We sit on each other's porch and have a cold drink and talk about life."
Lawson grew up in Boardman but Youngstown was still the place to go.
"I learned to swim at the YMCA," he recalled. "But Boardman has become the crowded urban center Youngstown used to be."
Lawson said the urban sprawl is continuing as a declining population uses more land to build large homes.
In Youngstown, poverty, absentee owners and race divisions remain issues, said Lawson.
Poverty prevents some city residents from owning homes, and some absentee owners don't keep up their property.
And historically in the city, he explained, people congregated along ethnic or racial lines. Lawson said that his neighborhood is mostly whites with a few blacks.
Lawson's neighbors are the owners and occupants and keep up their property, said Lawson.
"I have some really great neighbors," he said.

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