YOUNGSTOWN Wick Neighbors forges ahead with Smoky Hollow renewal

The group is planning for predevelopment efforts.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Wick Neighbors Inc. is moving ahead with plans for everything from signs to sewers in its drive to revitalize Smoky Hollow.
The nonprofit group initially spearheaded by St. John's Episcopal Church issued its first newsletter this week outlining its progress since last fall.
Margaret Murphy, the group's executive director, described the work as planning that is needed for predevelopment efforts.
The group wants new housing and shops in the Smoky Hollow area east of Wick Avenue to revitalize the community. The group has an overall design plan with an estimated cost of $250 million and is working to make it a reality.
Public update
The Wick Neighbors will meet from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Butler Institute of American Art for a public update on its efforts.
The meeting will include a brainstorming session on the development of Harrison Field, which would become the area's central park.
Murphy said the Youngstown Rotary Club is considering adopting the park as its centennial project. The Northeast Ohio American Institute of Architects has agreed to sponsor the first part of the design process for the park's features.
The Wick Neighbor's design standards and review committee has completed a proposal to seek a company to create design standards for items ranging from walkways to architectural guidelines and preservation standards, and to present them to city officials for approval. The cost of that project and a funding source haven't been determined.
The group's redevelopment committee is in the process of selecting a company that would map underground utilities in Smoky Hollow and create a topographic map of the area. The study's cost may be as high as $250,000. The Wick Neighbors are still seeking funding for that study.
First target
Walnut Street will be the first target area. A survey determined property ownership and which structures are inhabited and what work they need, and which structures are abandoned.
"This is really basic economic development," said Murphy. "Who is there. Who isn't."
St. John's, the Butler, Youngstown State University and other institutions along Wick Avenue have also begun planning and design efforts to address any of their expansion needs and improvements to their parking.
Development of the length of Walnut and Wick, said Murphy, will help determine the unified look of the revitalized area.
Twenty businesses in Smoky Hollow are also addressing development issues, such as traffic flow, uniform signs and litter.
Development corporation
The Wick Neighbors will also look at formation of a land development corporation as part of the actual construction. Murphy, who helped to redevelop Cleveland, said the corporations have been used by every community that has come back economically.
Financially, the Wick Neighbors have received $245,000 in grants, including one for $45,000 to hire a worker to create a donor development program.
Murphy added that the group has been awarded more grants but has yet to receive the money.
The group is also eyeing getting $1 million to $3 million in federal funds from money that may be used for a proposed civic center or downtown revitalization. Murphy said the Wick Neighbors are also seeking other public funds.
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