Campbell’s successful formula to fight blight


Much like its immediate neighbor to its west, the city of Campbell has been through the wringer over the past several decades. Deindustrialization and depopulation have battered the working-class community formerly known as East Youngstown and the city’s budget severely.

Like Youngstown, its population has taken a nearly 50 percent tumble from about 15,000 six decades ago to 7,923 today, according to the 2016 U.S. Census estimates. In some ways, the city has yet to fully recover from the calamitous exodus of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.’s Campbell Works 40 years ago.

But also like Youngstown, not all is doom and gloom for the future of Campbell, still affectionately known by many as “the city of churches” in the Mahoning Valley.

To be sure, Campbell is making inroads in economic development, most visibly in the growth of the CASTLO [Campbell, Struthers, Lowellville] industrial park. Though still not in tip-top shape, the city’s financial health is showing signs of improvement. And perhaps most noticeably in recent years and months, a coordinated effort to clear the city of demolished homes and blighted neighborhoods has achieved considerable visible progress.

As Vindicator staff writer Graig Graziosi outlined in a front-page story last week, a partnership formed between the Mahoning County Land Bank and Campbell city officials three years ago has logged tangible results in reducing blight and breathing new life into the aging industrial town.

Since that partnership began, the land bank has invested $1.2 million into blight-reduction projects in Campbell. It is on track to acquire 100 abandoned properties and demolish at least 50 of them by next year.

Its rate of blight reduction in Mahoning County is second only to Youngstown’s, where about 600 abandoned homes were razed last year.

‘ORGANIC PARTNERSHIP’

“We’ve developed a great organic partnership with the city of Campbell,” said Debora Flora, executive director of the land bank.

For the city, Maureen O’Neil, property specialist for Campbell, has acted as a primary catalyst for reinvigorating the community. She’s been active in the blight fight for many years and has used her know-how to identify abandoned unhealthy properties and carry them to their dates with the wrecking ball to Campbell’s advantage.

That success clearly translates into a cleaner, healthier and more vibrant community. It also effectively complements other ongoing efforts to increase property values and make the city more attractive to new businesses and industries the city so desperately needs.

With the bulk of funding for the massive cleanup project coming from grant sources, the successes also have come without breaking the city’s bank.

As such, the municipality and the land bank partnership serves as a fine example for many other communities in dire need of face-lifts throughout the Valley.

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