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YOUNGSTOWN Grant offers hope for Westlake area

By David Skolnick

Saturday, March 8, 2003

YOUNGSTOWN -- A nearly $20 million federal grant will fund recreation and job training centers, 200-some subsidized and market-rate homes and even a youth golf center at the former Westlake Terrace homes.
U.S. Sen. George Voinovich announced today that the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority won the $19.75 million grant.
The grant means the neighborhood between U.S. Route 422 and Youngstown State University and St. Elizabeth Health Center will take on a whole new face, said Eugenia C. Atkinson, YMHA's executive director.
"You'll see a whole new community," she said.
YMHA gets one of 28 grants this year awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Hope VI Revitalization Program. Hope VI is the federal government's main redevelopment program for housing authorities.
"The funds offer a tremendous opportunity for homeownership, job training and entrepreneur development," said Voinovich. He wrote a letter to HUD Secretary Mel Martinez supporting Youngstown's application.
The award is one of the largest federal grants received in the Youngstown area.
YMHA applied for Hope VI funding three times in the past without success. YMHA was just four points shy of winning the grant last year, Atkinson said.
Louisville, Ky., received $20 million in this round. Daytona Beach, Fla. received $17 million; Muncie, Ind., $12.3 million; and Utica, N.Y., $11.5 million.
President Bush hasn't included funding for Hope VI in his 2004 proposed budget. There have been questions by the Bush administration about the effectiveness of the program.
Since 1993, 165 grants have been awarded. Only 14 projects have been completed. Of the 85,000 projected housing units, 21,000 have been built.
Atkinson expects the new housing and job, recreation and golf centers to be built within three to four years.
Some work associated with the project already has started. In 1999, YMHA received a $1.5 million Hope VI demolition grant to take down 289 severely distressed and obsolete public housing apartments at Westlake. A senior citizen housing complex will start construction in the spring. Streets that dead end at Westlake are being extended now.
The space between Youngstown State University and Westlake, known as the Arlington neighborhood, has been a focus for the city, said Councilman Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, Eugenia's husband. His ward includes Westlake and Arlington.
Now, that neighborhood's revival can progress, he said.
"It will revitalize that part of town," he said.
The North Side has few places for youth, Atkinson said. The recreation and youth golf centers, combined with new housing, will make the area a great place for families, he said.
"That's what a neighborhood is," he said.
The design focuses on the traditional urban neighborhood model. The plan links the Westlake property -- which was isolated from the rest of the area -- with streets and pedestrian paths to the Arlington neighborhood.
What's planned
YMHA would demolish Westlake apartments along Martin Luther King Boulevard (Route 422) for the golf training facility, where life skills would be taught. The three to five golf holes will be located where those apartments are now.
The recreation and job centers will be built nearby.
The housing will be built between Oxford Avenue on the former Evans Field south to Otis Street.
The grant means the renaissance of a North Side neighborhood to go with another public housing turnaround at Rockford Village on the East Side, the former Kimmelbrook homes, said Mayor George M. McKelvey.
That recently completed project was a $13.6 million investment in turning 300 barracks-style units into 149 town houses and 10 single-family homes.
"It's such a wonderful experience to pick up the phone ... and for once get good news," he said. "It's just fantastic."
Each dollar invested means $5 in business activity, McKelvey said, meaning the Westlake remake would create $100 million in economic activity.
He commended YMHA and other government and business leaders around the city for making Hope VI happen.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, who also sent a letter to HUD supporting the project, called it a boost to quality of life in the city. Affordable, mixed-income housing is a key to revitalizing central cities, he said.