By DANNY RESTIVO
A public meeting of the Idora Neighborhood Association and representatives of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church gave little insight into the future of the old Idora Park property.
Suffragan Bishop C. Shawn Tyson, pastor at Mount Calvary, reiterated Thursday night at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley that the church plans to build a $50 million City of God with a nursing home, counseling center, gymnasium and worship facility. The church is focusing on the first phase, he said, which would include a 75,000-square-foot dream center.
Tyson expounded upon the dream center’s amenities but did not divulge funding information or offer a tentative groundbreaking date.
“We’ve heard this all before,” James London, president of Idora Neighborhood Association, told Tyson and other Mount Calvary representatives. “Nothing has been done since it’s been in the hands of the church, and it’s only gotten worse.”
Mount Calvary purchased the former amusement park property for $300,000 in 1985 before announcing its plan for a City of God. In 1989, the property went to a sheriff’s auction at which it was purchased by Consumer United Insurance for $205,000, which then listed the property with a local real-estate broker. The church purchased it again in 1994.
In 2010, the Ohio Department of Taxation denied Mount Calvary’s application for tax-exempt status on the property.
According to a 2011 lien search by Western Reserve Title & Escrow Inc., the old park property carried nearly $1 million in liens. Tyson would not comment on whether any of that had been paid.
Tyson, who has been the lead pastor at Mount Calvary since 2010 after Bishop Norman Wagner died, said the church is expanding its fundraising and debt liquidation efforts. He acknowledged the financial troubles the church has had.
“I am not here to repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Tyson. “We’re very sensitive to the concerns of the residents and the community around the park.”
Presley Gillespie, executive director of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., said getting the community involved is paramount to revitalizing the property. The church should look at Mill Creek MetroParks as a possible partner in the endeavor, he said.
“They have the knowledge and the background to manage space, especially green space,” Gillespie said during the meeting.
He noted that a recent study by Ohio State University graduate students showed that a partnership with Mill Creek would benefit the area and create additional revenue streams for revitalization. Gillespie said Mount Calvary officials have rejected proposed partnerships with the MetroParks in previous meetings.
“I think everyone would love for the property to be combined in some fashion to the park,” said London. “We want to make this work, but we have to stop playing games.”