Riverfront development brings clear ripple effects

A key addition to Youngs- town’s ongoing urban renaissance officially took root Thursday when members of the city’s Board of Control signed an $8 million contract to transform a long blighted stretch on the southern edge of downtown into a vibrant and attractive entertainment and recreational venue for thousands.

The Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater and riverfront park moved from proposal stage to reality phase when Board of Control members hired Brock & Associates Builders Inc. to construct the expansive and multipurpose venue.

We welcome this aesthetically pleasing addition to the downtown landscape as well as its myriad promising assets. We therefore urge Brock & Associates to work expeditiously but expertly to complete the project in time for the start of the summer 2019 outdoor entertainment season.

From a business perspective, the outdoor concert center will fill a gaping hole. JAC Management, which manages the nearby Covelli Centre and will run the amphitheater, has long bemoaned the lack of adequate and appropriate outdoor space to attract artists to the downtown during summer.

What’s more, the YF Amphitheater will have a seating capacity of 4,500, which rivals that of outdoor amphitheaters at Blossom Music Center in suburban Akron and Jacobs Pavilion on the waterfront in Cleveland. As a result, the downtown area will soon soak in the hubbub of concert-goer commerce all year long – even when the Covelli Centre largely goes dark during June, July and August.

The new Mahoning River development also fills another void in the downtown, the lack of large tracts of green space and recreational opportunities. The project will stretch across 12 acres along the river from the South Avenue Bridge to just west of Hazel Street at the former Wean United factory site.

The development also celebrates the renaissance of the river, which helped to establish Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley as an industrial giant in the 19th and 20th centuries. We hope supporters of that river’s ongoing revitalization continue their efforts in earnest to complement the new development.

Long-term plans for the park also include space for sports, community gardens, a children’s play area, a dog park and even a family water park.

Those and other amenities, in turn, cannot help but promote and invite additional commercial growth and economic development in the city center. Waterfront parks in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo and other cities have all been credited with attracting new life – both commercial and residential – to their cities’ cores.

Valley residents should take pride in knowing that Youngstown can now be added to that list of progressive-thinking metropolitan areas.

Some in our community have already stood up and taken notice. The Youngstown Foundation has generously chipped in $3 million toward the project in exchange for naming rights of the amphitheater. The Raymond John Wean Foundation has shown interest in a possible similar deal for naming rights of another aspect of the development.

We’re confident that as construction speeds up and the project takes shape, excitement and anticipation will grow. Reinventing the riverfront promises positive and lasting ripple effects for the downtown, the city and the Valley for years and decades to come.

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