DOWNTOWN Owners organize, unite city business

Merchants are still concerned about downtown parking and loitering.
YOUNGSTOWN -- In less than a month, the Downtown Youngstown Merchants' Association will be an official nonprofit organization.
After about 15 downtown merchants raised their hands in favor of the association at Monday's downtown merchant's meeting in city hall, Jeff Kurz, co-owner of Imbibe, a martini bar on Federal Street, and Claire Maluso, Federal Plaza director, signed a form that would be sent to the state for approval of a 501-C Corporation.
The papers will take about 20 days to process.
Kurz said the association's goal is to promote businesses' unifying image of what downtown Youngstown can be.
Kurz approached Maluso about filling out the necessary legal paperwork for nonprofit organization status after about 25 merchants at the July 15 downtown merchants' meeting responded warmly to the idea of the association.
He stressed the need for the association to be "inclusive," adding that it would give merchants an opportunity to be "one voice together."
Board specifics
The board will have 15 seats in addition to officers. Members of the board will be elected on three-year staggered terms. The only requirement to be an association member is to own a business downtown although owners can send representatives from their businesses.
The association will meet the last Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. to find solutions to some of the issues that were discussed at other downtown merchant meetings such as trash collection, parking and lighting downtown.
Maluso reviewed some of the issues that were brought up at the July 15 meeting , and some merchants wanted to continue the discussion about vagrants and parking.
Kytrina Kennedy of Secret Garden and Serenity Salon and Spa, 101 W. Federal St., said she has problems with vagrants loitering outside of her business, adding that it tends to drive customers away from the salon.
George Case of Geo's Music, 102 W. Federal St., said he sees police drive past the salon several times a day, so they must know that people loiter there.
"This is what makes people say, 'I'm going to the mall because I won't have to deal with that there,'" Case said.
Kennedy tried to make the outside of her business "less comfortable" for loiterers by placing nine cactuses outside. These were stolen, she said.
Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, said he would talk to city police about patrolling the area more.
"There needs to be some police walking too so they can see what's going on," Gillam said.
Parking problem
Often times Kennedy said she puts quarters in the parking meters downtown for her customers so they won't get tickets.
The meters are only for an hour, and Kennedy said customers are usually in the salon for at least two hours.
The lack of parking downtown is something that all merchants agreed needs to be resolved.
Kennedy suggested that downtown employees can take a shuttle to work from a parking lot so spaces in front of their businesses could be open for customers.
Gillam agreed that the idea of a shuttle was a good one and said that it is something that can be discussed in more detail at next month's merchants' meeting.
Maluso said there was a shuttle downtown about 10 years ago, but with the lack of businesses there wasn't a need for it.
She added that there would be a need for a shuttle now since more businesses are opening downtown.

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