YOUNGSTOWN -- Don't be alarmed when you see more dwellings boarded up along Otis Street near Chase

YOUNGSTOWN -- Don't be alarmed when you see more dwellings boarded up along Otis Street near Chase Field in the Westlake Terrace Homes area.
It is not a sign of further deterioration, officials say, but a sign of continued progress.
The old rental units will be razed this summer as the public housing project continues its transformation under the Hope VI neighborhood revitalization plan. The complete plan calls for homes, recreational facilities and a grocery store.
Apartments nearly complete
The transformation of the North Side neighborhood began in 2003 when the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority won a nearly $20 million, five-year federal grant for the neighborhood overhaul.
The spot is bounded by U.S. Route 422, the Madison Avenue expressway, St. Elizabeth Health Center and Oxford Avenue. The new name for the neighborhood will be Arlington Heights.
Patrick Howard, director of development for YMHA, which is overseeing the project, said the 90 units on Otis are the last to be demolished in the Westlake area. An indoor recreational facility and an outdoor recreation area, featuring basketball and tennis courts and a softball field, are planned.
More on the horizon
A 40-unit apartment building developed by Community Housing Operations Involving Cooperative Efforts Inc. is completed and nearly full, Howard said. YMHA entered into a 99-year ground lease with CHOICE, a city nonprofit development agency.
Howard said that in May, construction of 30 single-family homes for low- and moderate-income families will begin. They will be located along Park and Harlem streets and Parmelee and Lexington avenues.
Then 36 rental apartments will be built along the east and west sides of Wirt Street, which will be renamed Wirt Boulevard. Wirt is the main street running through the neighborhood.
On the east side, the rental apartments will be located from Park to Harlem streets. On the west side, the buildings will be located north of Otis and south of Rowland Street.
All that housing work, which constitutes Phases 1 and 2, are to be completed by the end of this year, Howard said.
An additional 38 rental apartments are scheduled to be built in Phase 3 in the fall and winter of 2006 on the east side of Wirt from Parmelee to Oxford streets and the west side of Griffith Street from Lexington to Oxford.
The recreational facility and outdoor park, which also will include a golf driving range and putting green, will be constructed beginning this winter and continuing through 2007 in Phase 4.
Howard said a commercial/retail facility, most likely a grocery store, is scheduled sometime in 2006 and 2007 in Phase 5.
"The result would be a revitalized neighborhood and community, which hopefully would spur other development in the area and other positive activity around the Hope VI project," Howard said.
Training, counseling available
Maybe as important as the new construction are the accompanying social services, said Herman Hill, coordinator of community and supportive services for Hope VI.
YMHA is working with people who used to live in the area and were displaced by the initial Westlake demolition a few years ago. Those residents can tap a variety of services arranged through Hope VI, from education and job training to financial counseling and homeownership training.
"The goal is to help them become self-sufficient" and eligible to rent or own a home in the new neighborhood, Hill said.
Howard said the federal money must be spent by 2008 on the project.
The city also has donated Evans Field to the YMHA, which will be the site of future housing.
Hill said residents in and around the area thought there would be no recreational area or ball field in the neighborhood once Evans was used for housing.
After several discussions, however, those concerns have been eliminated with knowledge the recreational space will be provided at the nearby Chase Field, Hill said.
Infrastructure improvements, including construction of an alley behind the homes on the west side of Wirt, and median strips and green space between Lexington and Park, are planned in the final phase in 2007 through 2008, the revitalization plan shows.