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Youngstown Offers Lessons In Getting Smaller

(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

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YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO (KDKA) — Like our own Mon Valley, Youngstown’s been losing people since the death of big steel and once-thriving neighborhoods are now pockets of blight and decay.

“People move out cause there’s no jobs or nothing here so the houses go vacant,” said Donald Huff, a city resident.

But rather than grieve the past, Youngstown is embracing a new, leaner future.

“Smaller sometimes is better,” says Mayor Jay Williams.

Youngstown is shrinking, but its young mayor is helping manage that decline with a new message – you don’t have to be big to be great.

“Planned shrinkage, managed decline,” he said. “Our approach was to recognize the reality that existed here — that this city’s population had declined considerably over the past several decades, but it didn’t mean that we had to be an inferior city.”

In the new Youngstown, there are winners and there are losers — like a neighborhood where the streets that are nothing but abandoned houses, save for one or two holdouts.

“We won’t put any money into repairing sidewalks or resurfacing streets it would be patching the streets,” Youngstown Planning Director Bill Avignon said.

Instead, the city is trying to get those holdouts to move to neighborhoods like Idora where the city is targeting its resources, rehabbing 23 homes and demolishing 50 others and converting those lots into parklets and community gardens.

“It’s really is triage. It’s about getting in before it spreads to too far,” Avignon said.

Idora has once again become a viable neighborhood — even if some neighborhoods feel short-changed.

“Placating all the involved parties by simply spreading resources like peanut butter doesn’t work,” Mayor Williams said. “It might in the short-term keep people quiet or satisfied, but at the end of the day, you do have to make tough decisions about where to invest resources.”

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