Downtown Youngstown is really nice! Now, I’m defining it as the area enclosed by Highway 422, which surrounds it to the northeast, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the city; on the southwest, the Mahoning River forms the other border. Youngstown State University clearly breathes much of the life into the area northeast of downtown proper.
Some of the most interesting and thriving mid-sized cities in America can thank universities for their vibrancy, and I think that Ohio’s government could help Youngstown build on this potential partner to help Youngstown’s rebirth. But it needs assistance; as New Haven, Connecticut, shows, a highly prestigious university can also do little or nothing to aid the community in which it sits.
And outstanding cultural amenities such as the Butler Institute of American Art are allies Youngstown can utilize shrewdly to also bolster its image in the post-steel world. The Butler is a fine legacy of the money that once called the city home. It is not a relic of past glory but an example of a way forward.
And there is still lots of great architecture to market the city.
Let’s move to downtown proper, looking down Federal Street, which was undergoing a “road diet” to make it more conducive to pedestrian traffic and to slow down automobile from speeding. Yes, humble Youngstown is ahead of the game compared to St. Louis, whose leaders just talk about it and commission more studies about doing the same thing in our own central business district.
In fairness, there are still way too many parking lots, which never bring vitality to a downtown, but only take it away. Just look at Google Maps to see how much of Youngstown is taken up by parking, which of course sits empty since the buildings that would need the parking were demolished for the parking!
But what’s left is still beautiful, as the Mahoning County Courthouse shows. Designed by Charles F. Owsley, it opened in 1910.
Below, originally built as the Metropolitan Bank Building, this Art-Deco tower was designed Morris W. Schiebel, opening in 1929.
Nearby is the former Mahoning National Bank, designed by Albert Kahn, whose work we looked at extensively in Detroit.
A great example of the Renaissance Revival style applied to a skyscraper, it opened in 1909, and was expanded by five bays in the 1920s.
Honestly, I didn’t see any bombed out, abandoned buildings in downtown Youngstown.