Group considers plans for an arts community

Planners compared the Youngstown project to the University Circle area in Cleveland.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Wick Neighbors are considering preliminary plans to create an arts community east of Youngstown State University with stores, businesses and 300 to 500 homes.
The new community would be the only arts community between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, said Hunter Morrison, Cleveland's former planning director who is working for YSU, the city of Youngstown and with the Wick Neighbors.
The Wick Neighbors are the churches, museums and other cultural institutions in or around Wick Avenue that have launched a revitalization effort for Smoky Hollow on the east side of Wick.
Because the Wick Neighbors project also is a spiritual revitalization, churches will have a street service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday to celebrate their neighborhood.
Morrison told Wick Neighbors at a meeting Wednesday that their project "is very strong, very legitimate."
The institutions along Wick Avenue, such as the Butler Institute of American Art, represent "embedded" equity, said Morrison, adding, "It's what you have left of the mills."
Creating a plan
The group has hired Cityarchitecture of Cleveland for $98,000 to help create a plan covering everything from the area's appearance to adequate sewers. The Wick Neighbors have collected more than $60,000 toward that cost so far.
The Rev. John Horner of St. John's Episcopal Church, 323 Wick Ave., who envisioned the project with YSU President David Sweet, said contributions are still being sought, but he is confident they will be able to reach that amount.
"We have looked at what they have done in Cleveland, and I'm sure they can do it here," the Rev. Mr. Horner said.
The planners told the group that Wick Avenue is now a "mediocre" destination but could be a great one.
Morrison said the avenue has to have "a real sense of place."
Paul Volpe, president of Cityarchitecture, said, "It's not a case of 'Build it and they will come.' You have to create a place and add value to it so they want to come."
The planners compared the project to University Circle in Cleveland, which they said employs thousands of people and draws millions to that city.
About 30 of the Wick Neighbors are filling out surveys for what they want to see locally.
About the area
Smoky Hollow is a natural bowl-shaped area between Wick, Rayen and Andrews avenues and the Madison Avenue Expressway.
Volpe told the Wick Neighbors the project is really one of creation rather than revival. Volpe said of Smoky Hollow, "It's all but gone."
YSU owns about two-thirds of the land and uses it for parking and playing fields.
The rest of Smoky Hollow contains about three homes in good condition, about 40 that need work and about 20 that are in poor condition.
Tentative plans by Cityarchitecture call for residences for singles and empty-nesters, lots of green spaces and connecting or creating roads in Smoky Hollow to Wick Avenue. Those connecting roads and green spaces would help draw people from YSU into the area.
Coming together
The venture also is a break with Youngstown's history. The planners noted that walls and the lack of connecting roads separated the affluent Wick Avenue residents from the immigrants who lived in Smoky Hollow.
But the parishioners from St. John's Episcopal, First Christian Church, First Presbyterian Church and New Beginnings Outreach Ministry are already working toward greater urban interaction and unity.
The white and black congregations will gather at Wick and Lincoln avenues Sunday for what Mr. Horner termed a brief street festival to share the gifts with which they honor the Lord, and exchange small gifts with one another.
"We all follow the same Lord whose prayer for Christians is that we all be one," said Mr. Horner. "Over the past year, the Wick Avenue churches have been working together in significant ways, particularly on the project to reestablish the Smoky Hollow neighborhood. On Sunday, however, we will celebrate simply our oneness as a Christian community."
After the service, each congregation will go to its own house of worship for their own services.

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