By Denise Dick
A property database by Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies provides information such as property foreclosures and crime statistics for community leaders and neighborhood groups.
“I think the audience is city leaders, community activists block watch groups, community groups, cities or universities that are doing research in neighborhoods,” said John Bralich, senior GIS (geographic information system) manager at YSU and the system’s project manager. “It’s really aimed toward the community.”
The database is available at rpis.ysu.edu.
The center was asked to develop the database by the Youngstown Mahoning County Vacant Property Initiative. Youngstown’s Community Development Agency funded the $56,000 project.
“We’ve been involved with the vacant property initiative from the beginning,” Bralich said.
Planning took about a year with setup taking six to nine months, he said.
The database provides up-to-date information about vacant properties, foreclosures, active tax liens and U.S. Census data for Mahoning County. In addition, crime statistics, arson incidents, vacant properties and planned and completed demolitions are available for Youngstown.
“This new system can positively impact the region,” city CDA Director William D’Avignon said in a news release. “It provides one-stop access to a variety of statistical information needed for community planning, grant writing and developing internal initiatives targeting our neighborhoods. The system may also allow national companies to see the potential of this area when they’re looking to relocate or open a new facility.”
Jason Loree, Boardman administrator, said the Web site would be useful for him, too.
“Normally, I go to the [Mahoning County] auditor’s office, a site to get Census area information, and other places,” he said. “If it was all coordinated on one website, that’s perfect.”
Bralich said the information will be updated as often as new information is available. He hopes it can be expanded to include crime statistics for other areas of the county.
“This is a work in progress,” he said. “By no means is it a finished product.”
Wick Neighbors Inc. first convened the YMCVPI in 2007 in response to community interest in neighborhood development and reinvestment. Wick Neighbors brought in the National Vacant Property Campaign to assess strengths and needs within the community and provide recommendations. That assessment resulted in the 2009 study, “Regenerating Youngstown and Mahoning County through Vacant Property Reclamation.”