German Students Offer Revitalization Ideas for Youngstown

A group of urban planning students traveled from Germany to Youngstown to share their ideas on how to rejuvenate the city.

“We want to learn from Youngstown, as well as give Youngstown some new ideas, so it’s like giving and getting,” said German student Franziska Zibell.

Working with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, 13 students and two professors from the Technical University of Dortmund spent about two weeks studying Youngstown. They chose the city because of its similarities to their home in the Ruhr Valley in Germany.

“It’s a former industrial city as well, and it was a big steel and coal production there. And Dortmund faces a lot of shrinking and shrinkage as well, and the structural changes and so the situtation is really similar,” Zibell said.

During Thursday’s workshop at the Covelli Centre, students highlighted the revitalization of the Ruhr Valley.

“Once there was maybe an old coal mine and today there is a lake, so there are very different uses,” said German student Jannik Huelsbusch.

But the group also needed to apply what they learned from their home to the unique challenges in the Mahoning Valley. Students shared plans to add green spaces under bridges,  light up buildings and old mill stacks, and reuse some parts of the old steel mills, which are ideas that are visual and affordable.

“You see it now in a number of buildings downtown in Youngstown that are lit up. Those are relatively inexpensive ways of calling attention to the assets in your community,” said Hunter Morrison of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium. “We talked a little bit about the connection between Mill Creek and the Covelli Centre and the university, which are three major assets of the community, and how you could make investments, some of them expensive, but some of them temporary and more lightweight in terms of their costs, that draw attention.”

One asset the students noticed that wasn’t being utilized was the Mahoning River. They suggested creating a walk-along that stretches down the river.

“The first step would be just to realize that there is a river and make it attractive to be there,” Zibell said.

The YNDC hosted the group and said they were pleased with the data and ideas from the students’ “Stay Young, Youngstown” project.

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