Rescue Mission eyes park facility

Long-range plans also call for a community center.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley wants to use Southside Park to build a new facility.
William D'Avignon, city deputy director of planning, told members of the city's park and recreation commission Thursday that the Youngstown 2010 plan identified Southside Park as one of the city parks that could be put to better use.
"The Rescue Mission has plans to utilize the park," D'Avignon said.
The plan requires the park board to declare the property surplu, after which city council can authorize the board of control to negotiate a purchase option between the organization and the city for a two-year period. That would give the agency two years to raise money for the plans.
The purchase likely would involve a nominal fee, city officials said.
Rescue Mission officials previously have met with Mayor Jay Williams and Councilman Paul Pancoe, D-6th, who, they say, support the idea. The park is in Pancoe's ward.
D'Avignon said about one acre of the five-acre park includes deed restrictions that require it to remain park property owned by the city.
To expand services
"We want to do more for the people of our community and we want to do it better," said the Rev. David L. Sherrard, executive director of the Rescue Mission.
The park property is ideally situated along a bus line and close to the freeway, he said.
Southside Park sits between Belleview and South avenues, south of Marion Avenue.
The Rescue Mission operates its residential facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and a warehouse and administrative offices are on Glenwood Avenue.
That causes some duplication of services, the Rev. Mr. Sherrard said.
The Martin Luther King Boulevard facility, built in the 1930s as a YMCA, is landlocked, limiting the agency's ability to offer more services, Mr. Sherrard said.
The mission hopes to build a roughly 50,000-square-foot building at the park site, he said.
First step
Jim Echement, the agency's director of development, said the Rescue Mission first must have a site identified before it may begin a capital campaign.
Aside from combining many of its services in one location, the mission also hopes to add a medical clinic and learning facility.
"We have the volunteer medical personnel; we just don't have the space," Echement said.
Mr. Sherrard also said long-range plans call for a community center. "It's about meeting the changing needs of our community," he said.
When questioned about the portion of the property that deed restrictions require to remain a park, Rescue Mission officials said that works into their plans.
"We need a place for our kids to play, too," Echement said, adding that a park would be open to the community.
Park commission members said that they support the agency's idea but that they want to hear from Williams and Pancoe about their views before taking action.

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