By LINDA M. LINONIS
The Oak Hill Collaborative has a vision of what can be in one city neighborhood.
The collaborative’s dedicated focus is Oak Hill Avenue, said Pat Kerrigan, one of three men behind the collaborative. Specifically, Kerrigan said, the two-mile stretch of Oak Hill Avenue from the Mahoning River to Indianola Avenue is the collaborative’s concern.
“The collaborative is a nonprofit initiative designed to redevelop real estate along the Oak Hill corridor,” Kerrigan said. It formed three months ago. The other members are the Rev. Edward Noga, pastor of St. Patrick Church on Oak Hill, and Youngstown attorney Carl James.
The three men offer a range of concrete skills to the project. James brings legal and business acumen; Father Noga, community activism; and Kerrigan, a retired lawyer, leadership, organizational and legal skills.
Kerrigan, a member of St. Patrick, has served about seven years in property acquisition. The church acquired lots on neighboring Cleveland Street, where community and sunflower gardens now grow. The church also gave two nearby lots to Habitat for Humanity; a house already has been built on one.
The active, inner-city church has taken a leadership role but Kerrigan said the question did arise just how far and in what capacity the church should go. The men saw the need to move this initiative a step away from the church, Kerrigan said.
“We’re standing on the shoulders of what’s been accomplished by St. Pat’s,” he said. “We’re inspired by what’s being done in the Idora neighborhood and by Community Corrections Association on Market with landscaping.”
The collaborative, Kerrigan said, is hoping to acquire two lots with vacant structures on Garfield between Oak Hill and Market, where CCA has landscaped, and turn the land into a park-like place. Land behind Oak Hill Cemetery has potential as an urban farm. The former Clarence Robinson Center on the 1700 block is a demolition candidate.
Kerrigan is focused on how the present can improve the future. He is a former Youngstown municipal court judge who pleaded guilty to three counts of accepting improper benefits and served time in federal prison in the 1990s.
He said the collaborative has its eye on a building on Oak Hill. It could provide a launch pad for small businesses, which could share office space, equipment and utilities. An idea in discussion is a mobile food truck that would serve businesses and agencies along Oak Hill and neighboring streets. Kerrigan and James would provide legal, organizational and tax help for such start-ups.
Kerrigan said Oak Hill anchors such as St. Patrick, Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church with Calvary Ministries International, Oakhill Renaissance Place, Pepsi Cola, City Printing, Boys and Girls Club, Needles Eye and Tri-County Wholesale Distributors provide stability.
“We want to be realistic in scope. We can’t do everything for everybody,” he said.