Youngstown officials expect decision on street closure by July
By David Skolnick
City officials expect to have a decision by early July as to whether to permanently close a downtown street to vehicular traffic and make it a pedestrian mall.
About 75 people attended a Wednesday public meeting at the Covelli Centre’s Youngstown State University Community Room to hear the proposal for North Phelps Street between West Federal and West Commerce streets and to give their input. Most of those who spoke at the meeting support the idea.
“I’ve been through the ups and downs of downtown, and it’s good to see this,” said James Gentile, an attorney with an office on the corner of North Phelps and West Commerce. “We’re behind it 100 percent. It’s another stage in the rebirth of Youngstown. We’re all for it.”
Mark Worsencroft – whose company, Justice League Restaurants, owns Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts on North Phelps and is planning to open a German beer house next door this fall – said, “We are in favor of this. It will help the business corridor and bring more businesses to the downtown area.”
It would cost about $200,000 to turn that section of North Phelps into a pedestrian mall, said Charles Shasho, deputy director for the city’s public works department. The city has discussed closing that section of North Phelps for a few years to vehicles, he said.
Based on comments at Wednesday’s meeting, the city seems in favor of making the transformation.
The project would be planned for construction in spring 2019, Shasho said.
“We’ll present our findings to city council and I’d like to see something finalized by July 4 and go out for bids in the fall,” he said.
Regardless of what the city decides on the pedestrian mall, it will replace sewer, gas and water lines on that section of the street this winter, Shasho said.
The sewer project was to occur five years ago, but it came to a stop after only a month of work when it was discovered that underground utilities, primarily AT&T lines and three duct banks, were directly in the path of the line.
The street has been closed since January for a project to install an AT&T duct bank.
Also, questions and comments concerning the proposal may be submitted in writing no later than June 14 to Shasho at city hall, 26 S. Phelps St., Youngstown, OH 44503 or by email at email@example.com.
There were discussions years ago about turning that section of downtown into a pedestrian entertainment district that would permit people to drink alcoholic beverages outside. The city hasn’t made a final decision as to whether that will happen.
Some of the concerns raised Wednesday were deliveries to businesses on that street and nearby parking.
Rich Mills, who owns several downtown buildings but not on or near North Phelps Street, said he supports the concept, but it should be designed for deliveries during the day and closed to vehicles at night for people to enjoy the street.
Madeline Beaulieu, owner of Ado’s Alterations in the affected section of North Phelps, said she has mixed emotions about closing the street to vehicles.
“I don’t want people sitting in front of my store looking at me all day,” she said.