New website prompts visionaries


Dreaming Youngstown co-founders Dana Sperry and Natalya Pinchuk discuss plans for city revitalization with tour participants at a vacant lot on West Federal Street. Photo by Kevin Alquist/The Jambar.

In the midst of city revitalization, Dreaming Youngstown: An Open Library of Possibilities is giving residents and enthusiasts a chance to dream big. The website gives residents a forum to make their ideas for development available.

A year after Dreaming Youngstown was introduced during the Town Hall Project at the McDonough Museum of Art, the project is hosting bus tours that bring participants to locations around the city that have sparked inspiration for revitalization.

Dreaming Youngstown’s maiden bus tour was Friday.Natalya Pinchuk, co-founder of Dreaming Youngstown, called the tour a great learning experience.

“It’s not an easy task to get people to participate,” Pinchuck said. “Eventually, there will be money available to do some of these things, so to keep the ideas coming and continue brainstorming is very important.” The ideas are collected on the group’s website,

Dana Sperry, the website’s creator and an assistant professor in the art department at Youngstown State University, said the aim of the project is not to develop a plan, but rather to create a wide span of possibilities to build from.

The next two tours will take place on Sept. 29 and Oct. 20. Over the last year, ideas have been collected, and the action process is under way. Each bus tour departs from the former State Theater location on West Federal Street.

Friday’s bus tour stopped at locations like under the Market Street bridge, Smoky Hollow, abandoned car dealerships on Wick Avenue, a series of vacant lots and abandoned buildings on North Garland and South avenues.

Sperry said Dreaming Youngstown has an “anything goes” attitude. “We are open to ideas that brings people downtown, no matter how wacky, unrealistic or totally feasible,” Sperry said.

At an abandoned house on Willis Avenue, off Market Street, Sperry suggested that the community use abandoned houses to teach citizens skills in home maintenance while fixing the run-down houses.

“For example, I have plumbing work to do on my own house, but I don’t know how,” Sperry said. “People can go to these houses and learn the plumbing skills they need while fixing up the house as well.”

Another focus of the bus tour was the area under the Market Street bridge. A range of ideas was submitted for the area, such as lighting up the bridge with colored lights at night and installing a park under the bridge.

Smoky Hollow is another area that propelled discussion amongst participants. Tour-goers agreed that the area needed more interaction between the city and the university in order for improvement to be seen. Ideas for Smoky Hollow included fields for pickup sports and an area that would act as a public forum.

Just north of YSU on Wick Avenue are vacant lots and abandoned car dealerships. One idea for the area that sparked excitement from Pinchuk is a community compost area and tool shed. The tools would be donated by members of the community and used for area residents’ organic gardens.

“There is a lot of potential in a place like Youngstown that has so much empty space and vacant lots,” Pinchuk said.

Joe Paloski, a former YSU student who was on Friday’s tour, said he learned about the tour through Facebook and wanted to see what Dreaming Youngstown is all about.

“I’m interested in revitalization of the city and was interested in what their plans are,” Paloski said.

Bren Munroe, a coordinator of Dreaming Youngstown, was happy to see participation right off the bat for the group.

“Some people have a fear of their ideas not being taken seriously; with Dreaming Youngstown, they don’t need to worry about that,” Munroe said.