Planning for a New Youngstown: McDonough Exhibit Displays Urban Design Work

By Justin Wier

For the next six weeks, visitors to the John J. McDonough Museum of Art can come view potential futures for the City of Youngstown.

The Changing Views exhibit will present the products of work done by Youngstown State University’s Regional Economic Development Initiative and collaborations with students at Kent State University, Lawrence Technological University and Ball State University.

“This is our ultimate community feedback session,” Dominic C. Marchionda, city-university planner for REDI, said. “We’re finally at the point where we want to analyze what’s top quality, and then prioritize it based on what the community feedback is during the life of the exhibition.”

The Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative — a partnership between Kent State, Lawrence Tech and Ball State — held their annual Midwest Urban Design Charrette in Youngstown last year, and seniors in Kent State’s College of Architecture and Design created building and landscape designs for the city as part of their senior studio.

The resulting designs focus on the downtown area, the Hazel and Phelps Street corridors connecting the campus to downtown and the former Wean United site which connects the Covelli Centre to Mill Creek Park along the riverfront.

The exhibit also incorporates YSU assistant professor RJ Thompson’s “City of You” initiative, which aims to rebrand the city. There will be a storytelling booth for visitors to record their thoughts about the city and its future.

“That whole concept of what is your story, how’d you come up here…” Marchionda said. “We’re going to collect all those recordings and prioritize which projects we move forward on as a community.”

There will be a public reception on Friday from 6-8 p.m., but the McDonough will continue to serve as a community space until the exhibit closes on July 22.
“You’ll see community organizations, neighborhood associations, units of local government and boards have their meetings here throughout the life of the exhibition,” he said.

Leslie Brothers, director of the McDonough Museum, said the program ties into the museum’s mission to develop programs with the community around subjects that matter to them.

“Our hope is that people attending the exhibition will immerse themselves in the possibilities proposed by the students,” Brothers said in a statement. “We want visitors to indulge in the creative imaginative process of rethinking their city to inspire a collective positive force for change.”

Marchionda acknowledged that urban designs are not typically displayed in a museum, but he wanted to do something more interactive than a booklet.

“We’ve had the community stakeholder sessions and the [Economic Action Group] meetings throughout,” Marchionda said. “But now here it all is in front of you at once. Help us prioritize what you want to see from us going forward.”

Marchionda envisions the exhibit as a yearly event presenting the work REDI has accomplished to the community, especially now, as they pivot from planning towards implementation.

“Next year we hope to have another exhibition that says, ‘Here’s what we got done, and here’s what’s left,’ and keep it moving,” Marchionda said.