City, YSU officials note success of plan, discuss what to do next

About 400 of YSU's 13,000 students live off campus in downtown housing.
YOUNGSTOWN -- City and Youngstown State University officials are putting into action the Youngstown 2010 comprehensive plan that residents have worked so hard on since 2002, Mayor Jay Williams said during a panel discussion on campus.
Continuing the connection with the city and YSU, and improving quality of life by demolishing blighted areas were mentioned as points of progress made in implementing the plan.
PBS channels 45 and 49 taped the panel discussion Thursday evening at YSU, called "Where Do We Go From Here?" about the progress of the 2010 plan. The PBS station aired the program an hour later.
Williams said the community created a a vision, then a plan, and now everyone is working together to implement it. There are physical changes and financial planning taking place, and YSU and city officials are working to cement and continue partnerships, he said.
"The goal is to make the city as competitive as anywhere else," he said.
Here's the key
Williams said fighting crime is key to improving quality of life so people already living downtown don't feel forced to leave, and so that people will be attracted to downtown.
Prosecutors, judges and social service workers are on the front lines in the fight against crime, just as law enforcement officers are, the mayor said.
"The goal is working to keep people from entering the criminal justice system," he said. "Rarely do you see an adequately educated individual with a criminal history."
YSU President David Sweet said the university's early college program with Youngstown City Schools has been an effective link between the city and the university. Sweet said the program shows children at risk can do well when given access to the right environment and support.
Sweet said the bond between YSU and downtown Youngstown is growing stronger with plans for the School of Business and more opportunities for students to live downtown. He said about 400 of YSU's 13,000 students live off campus in downtown.
"Youngstown and YSU have a bright future as we implement the plan," Sweet said.
Downtown neighborhood
Hunter Morrison, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies, spoke of using downtown redevelopment as a way to fight sprawl into the suburbs and beyond.
Morrison said, for example, that people moved out of Youngstown and into the suburbs years ago. Now people from Boardman, for example, are moving even farther south, creating a market for single-family homes and other residential development on farmland.
"We have to make a core city an attractive option," Morrison said. He said the task is to create neighborhoods in downtown -- and bring people into walkable distance from work and entertainment -- to reverse the pressure to move out and create sprawl.
"YSU and the city are tightly woven and one of the best environments to create a revitalized core that supports neighborhoods and suburbs," he said.
When he first came to Youngstown across the old Blue Bridge on Interstate 680, he said the rusting bridge immediately put "Welcome to the Rust Belt" into his mind.
He said Youngstown's 2010 plan got the city $500,000 more from Ohio Department of Development than the city would have received without the plan. Because the city has a plan, it also has a new bridge on Madison Avenue and a new modern bridge replacing the old Blue Bridge will open in October, he said.
The new economy is visual, and cities need "curb appeal," Morrison said, meaning improvements must be made to major corridors in and out of the city to make a good first impression.
"You have a plan, you take it seriously and develop it one part at a time," Morrison said.

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