YOUNGSTOWN Wick group facing development issues

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Wick Neighbors were asked to suspend any disbelief about a draft plan to revitalize Smoky Hollow.
But that's a good thing, said Hunter Morrison, Cleveland's former planner.
Morrison, who is now working for Youngstown State University's Center for Urban and Regional Studies, is helping the Wick Neighbors turn Smoky Hollow into a urban neighborhood east of YSU. The university owns much of the land there.
Cityarchitecture of Cleveland is finishing plans for the Wick Neighbors that calls for new homes, apartments and parks.
Morrison told the group Wednesday, "Nobody in Youngstown believes in plans because they haven't happened."
But Smoky Hollow residents and businesses should get involved in the plan, even though it is far from finished, Morrison said. He urged people with concerns or issues to talk to Cityarchitecture.
Cityarchitecture will have to think through the issues and ideas, Morrison said.
Gloria Jones, one of the owners of Fireline at 300 Andrews Ave., was concerned about uneven land levels near her business. Morrison said a retaining wall might have to be built.
James Cobbins, owner of CCS Transport Inc., 121 E. Rayen Ave., noted that the plans call for senior citizen housing to be built where his company is now located.
Cobbins said he didn't mind having to move, but he wanted to stay in that area and still operate.
Morrison told Jones and Cobbins, and any others with concerns, to send their comments to Cityarchitecture. The public can view the plan in the Center for Urban and Regional Studies offices in the Phelps Building at Phelps Street and Lincoln Avenue.
The draft plan calls for 167 new homes, 264 new apartments, and more than 329,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space. The tentative cost has been estimated at $250 million.
The final version is to be unveiled at a meeting at 10 a.m. March 26 at First Presbyterian Church on Wick Avenue.
Making it work
Everyone will have an issue with the plan, and those will have to be discussed, Morrison said.
"If it doesn't work, change it," Morrison said. What's important now, said the planner, "is how to make it work."
Toward that end, the Wick Neighbors voted to form a nonprofit corporation to undertake the actual development.
"We're getting to the point where we have to deal with specific issues," said the Rev. John Horner, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church on Wick Avenue. The Rev. Mr. Horner, who has worked in city-urban ministries, and YSU President Dr. David Sweet envisioned the Wick Neighbors project.
"It's a much bigger project than Youngstown has undertaken in a long time," said Mr. Horner, who estimated the project might be completed in 2008 in time for YSU's 100th anniversary.
Morrison wasn't sure if the project could be completed by then.
"Put it on a timeline and look to see realistic dates," Morrison added.