By Zach Mosca
Since 2014, Youngstown residents traveling on Glenwood Avenue have likely noticed a vibrant, colorful looking plaza. However, aside from its eye-catching appearance, the buildings themselves were in need of a makeover. That’s why the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation has decided to rent the plaza and spruce it up.
According to YNDC housing director Tiffany Sokol, the YNDC has had its eye on the Glenwood Avenue plaza since it was vacated as a result of a fire about five years ago.
“Recently, the owners decided to list [the building] for sale, so we were definitely interested in the building previous to that, but it wasn’t available to us,” Sokol said.
YNDC Executive Director Ian Beniston said the organization started in 2010, acting as a non-profit organization to work with community development and planning, as well as neighborhood improvements.
“We do quite a bit of neighborhood improvement projects. Everything from greening vacant lots … to cleaning up vacant houses — we’ve done that to about 2,500 homes in the city,” Beniston said.
In the past, the plaza housed a daycare center and a restaurant. According to Beniston, the organization hopes to bring a new restaurant business where the previous one once stood.
“There was one unit in the building that was a restaurant, and there’s still a kitchen in it, so we’ll get that all cleaned up and hopefully be able to attract other restauranteurs to that space,” Beniston said.
As for the other vacant space in the plaza, Beniston said he’s also looking to attract new “quality of life” types of businesses to the area. Beniston listed a few examples of types of businesses that could fit into this category.
“These are just hypothetical or speculative at this point, but something like a laundromat, perhaps some place where you can get staple food items, perhaps a fitness center or a daycare,” he said.
The YNDC is no stranger to Glenwood Avenue. The organization has acquired many other properties on that block and completed similar revitalization projects with them. Sokol describes this project as one small piece of what the YNDC is doing for Glenwood.
“This is just one piece of the work we’ve been doing along the Glenwood corridor for over 10 years now. So it’s always been a part of our plan to acquire as much property along the Glenwood corridor to revitalize both the corridor and the neighborhood surrounding it,” Sokol said.
This project is still in the very early stages of development, as the YNDC acquired the property just a few weeks ago. However, Sokol said the organization’s past projects still bring in an overwhelming amount of small businesses looking to rent the space, so she hopes this acquisition will yield the same results.
“With our last property that we renovated, we received over 40 inquiries of small businesses that were looking to locate just a few blocks from where this new building is, so we’re very excited to be able to provide additional space for some of those businesses we didn’t have renovated space for back when we renovated that other property,” he said.