Niles excited to receive funds for downtown projects

NILES — At Wednesday’s council meeting, Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz said the city is “very excited” to receive $3.5 million through the state of Ohio’s Appalachian Community Grant Program for two downtown projects.

“It was a lot of hard work,” he said. “A lot of people were involved in that Appalachian Community Grant Program.”

The funds will go towards the planned urban entertainment area at the site of the old theater building and a canoe and kayak launch on the Mahoning River.

Mientkiewicz said the hope is for the urban entertainment area to be a prime spot for outdoor recreation. He suggested food trucks, farmers markets and small community events.

Mientkiewicz said the process of acquiring the theater property, acquiring funds through Ohio’s Demolition and Site Revitalization Program for the teardown and applying for the Appalachian community grant funds took “a lot of leg-work.”

“All of our officials were collectively onboard to solve a long-standing problem in the downtown area,” he said. “It seemed like all of the dominoes had and are now falling into place.”

Niles was also one of many local areas to receive funding for the Mahoning Valley’s river improvement plan.

The plan, also known as “The River of Opportunity,” seeks to rebrand and reidentify the river. According to the Eastgate Council of Government’s website, the plan seeks to “give the river the credit it deserves and allow it to be our centerpiece for the valley.”

Mientkiewicz said his involvement with “The River of Opportunity” plan started in 2018.

“(It took) nearly six years to put that plan together, to put that vision on paper,” he said. “Looking for different pots of money to fund that program, this was the perfect opportunity. It was transformational, it was regional, and those two terms were exactly what (Gov. Mike DeWine) was looking for when he was funding these types of projects.”

Mientkiewicz said the plan includes the removal of dams from Newton Falls in Trumbull County to Lowellville in Mahoning County to create opportunities for “water recreation.”

“It’s phenomenal not only for the city of Niles but for the region,” he said. “We hope to use this as an economic development tool just as well as a quality of life tool in the city of Niles as well as throughout the Mahoning Valley.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Mason Cole by email at mcole@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @masoncoletrib


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