On Dec. 16, 2002, the gathering of Youngstown and suburban residents was 1,000 strong. Considering the event was simply to launch "Youngstown 2010 -- Sharing a better vision for tomorrow," the attendance was a sight to behold. So you can just imagine what the turnout will be this Thursday at the public unveiling of Youngstown's roadmap to 2010 and beyond.
No, we don't know how many people will show up at 7 p.m. at Stambaugh Auditorium, but is it inconceivable that most of those who were present two years and a month ago wouldn't want to be on hand to hear what the architects of the plan have produced.
It should be a poignant moment, not only for Youngstowners, but for suburban residents.
Indeed, one of the highlights of the evening will be a discussion about the city of Youngstown and Austintown Township collaborating on the redevelopment of the Meridian Road corridor. Meridian Road divides the two communities, and civic and government leaders have concluded that it is foolhardy for them to plan the corridor's future in isolation. Thus, Anthony Kobak, the city's chief planner, and organizers of Austintown 20/20, led by Dr. Fred Owens, president of the Austintown Growth Foundation, have agreed to collaborate and are proposing a 12-member committee -- six from each community -- to oversee the development. The goal, certainly a worthy one, is to ensure symmetry in what occurs along Meridian Road.
It is not about surrendering independence, but rather a recognition that we're all in this together.
That's the reason residents throughout the Mahoning Valley should attend Thursday's event. While "Youngstown 2010 -- Sharing a vision for a better tomorrow" is largely about the people of the city, the neighborhoods they live in, the government they have, the hurdles they face and the opportunities that can be created, Mayor George M. McKelvey's view should serve as an invitation for all:
"Youngstown 2010 is not just about Youngstown's future, it is about the future of the entire Mahoning Valley. It is the blueprint for a vibrant future for this region. Youngstown 2010 must be your vision, your plan, the time is now."
That statement is featured on a brochure that details what is taking place.
The comprehensive planning initiative, being developed through a partnership of the city and Youngstown State University, is being built on four platforms: Youngstown is a smaller city today with 82,000 than it was in 1960 when it had 166,000 residents; Youngstown's role in the new regional economy; improving the city's image and enhancing quality of life; and, a call to action.
Since the December 2002 launch, Youngstown and YSU officials, together with consultants, spent 2003 developing a strategy for public participation in the planning process scheduled for 2004. Eleven neighborhood clusters were created in five planning districts: downtown, north, south, east and west.
Neighborhood planning meetings were held starting on April 6, 2004, and ending Aug. 24. About 800 residents participated, many of them offering opinions on future land use in their neighborhoods. Those opinions were the basis for a list of recommendations that will guide the development of each neighborhood cluster through 2010.
The draft plan to be unveiled this week reflects what the organizers gleaned from the countless hours they spent talking to people, studying the city's past and present, and determining the most realistic course of action.
But the gathering at Stambaugh Auditorium will not mean the end of the public's participation. There will be a comment period, during which planners will go into the community to explain the draft plan.
In March, the Youngstown Planning Commission will receive the final version of the draft. The commission will make a recommendation to city council during a public meeting.
Adoption or rejection of the plan by council will also occur in public session.
If adopted, it will become the official long-range planning document for the city of Youngstown.