By Justin Wier
Over the next few years, students at Youngstown State University can expect to see aesthetic improvements along Lincoln Avenue and Wick Avenue.
The project involves sidewalk and roadway improvements on Lincoln Avenue and along the stretch of Wick Avenue that extends from the Madison Avenue Expressway to Wood Street. The improvements to Wick Avenue also include converting it to a three-lane road and burying utility lines.
John McNally, mayor of the city of Youngstown, said the project predates his election, but he is eager to get things underway.
“We certainly want to help improve the physical look of Lincoln Avenue, and then also improve the physical look of Wick Avenue around the campus area,” McNally said.
Tim Ryan’s office earmarked federal funding for the Lincoln Avenue improvements, which are estimated to cost approximately $1.3 million. The improvements along Wick Avenue will require around $2.5 million in state and local funding. McNally said he hopes the community will come together to help fund the project.
“Burying the utility lines itself will cost probably $700 [thousand] to $750 thousand dollars. So, we’re going to be looking to the university, to the library system, to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and some of the other folks in that corridor for contributions to help offset this,” McNally said.
The project was encouraged by the Wick Neighbors’ organization, which is now part of Youngstown CityScape.
Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape, said the plans to repave Wick and Lincoln are already in place and her organization pushed to include aesthetic improvements.
“It’s a considerable upgrade on what we consider our cultural mile, with Bliss [Hall], the Butler Museum, the Historical Society, the McDonough Museum,” Letson said. “[Wick Avenue] is also an important gateway into our city, both to the university and downtown. And as we have money allocated already, let’s continue to up our game a little bit. Let’s make the visual appeal something that we can really be proud of. And pay attention to those details.”
Letson said CityScape’s efforts to help clean up downtown — which began in 1998 — played a role in its revitalization, and that effort must be directed to other areas in the city.
“In those beginning days, we were truly a dozen people planting some flowers, sweeping up and cleaning up the city, those kinds of things. I think that those projects were the first step in much of our downtown development that’s happened,” Letson said. “We have a great university that’s part of our downtown, and we want parents bringing their students to look at our school to have a certain feeling. I think it sends a message that this city cares, and I think those are all very important pieces in a much bigger puzzle.”
McNally would like to see the work begin sooner than later.
“I’m pushing our staff to have this project completely done by the end of 2016. I’m not sure if my staff thinks that’s possible, but my goal is to have the improvements to Lincoln and Wick done by the end of 2016,” McNally said.
Charles Shasho, director of the department of public works for the city of Youngstown, said the end of 2017 is a more realistic goal.
McNally’s plan would include burying utility lines this year, but the work is dependent upon the city’s ability to acquire the appropriate funding. The improvements to the sidewalks and roadways on Lincoln are likely to begin prior to those along Wick. The city intends to schedule the work to avoid major disruptions to YSU students.
“We want to start construction in the spring. We don’t want to be trying to fight through this in the winter with school in session,” Shasho said.
Shasho said the earliest construction could begin would be the spring of 2016, provided everything falls into place with funding requirements and environmental studies.
“It looks like 2016 for Lincoln, [but] that could slide into 2017, and probably fall of 2017 for Wick,” Shasho said.