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Residents of the Idora neighborhood on Youngstown’s South Side are working hard to keep it clean by sponsoring cleanups, planting gardens and getting murals painted on vacant buildings.
But one big eyesore remains: The old Idora Park property.
For the majority of the past 28 years, the Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church has been in primary control of the former Idora Park property when it purchased the site of the former amusement park for $300,000.
Heated exchanges took place at a meeting Thursday as the Idora Neighborhood Association hosted leaders and representatives of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church to find out what’s going to happen to the still vacant Idora Park property.
“There’s nobody accountable and there’s nobody doing the right thing for this property,” said Jim London, president of the Idora Neighborhood Association.
London had a stack of public records showing tax liens on the property totaling millions of dollars. The church nearly lost the property last year because it owed nearly $23,000 in back property taxes and the county considered foreclosing on it and placing the land in the county land bank.
“I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. All I know is I do have public information that leads me to believe that that property is so far in debt that whatever we do there, the people that have liens against that property will come for their money,” London said.
Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church pastor Shawn Tyson said he was aware of the financial problems that have plagued the project.
“You cannot hold me responsible for business decision making that I had no part of,” Tyson said. “Since I have been wearing the hat, we have caught up on those taxes and I made a decision that broke my heart to suspend the operation of our school to resolve those issues you speak of.”
The pastor told those in attendance he wants to create jobs, and is still calling the project the “City of God,” just like the original plans proposed in 1985 when the church first bought the land. They said at the time the project’s price tag was $50 million.
Tyson didn’t go into specifics, but mentioned several different possibilities, including an athletic complex with football fields, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, a putt-putt course and concession stand, as well as a restaurant, a shopping plaza and place of worship.
Tyson said revealing details of the plan was not the purpose of Thursday’s meeting and details would be revealed later.
But Idora Park burned down nearly 30 years ago and some people are out of patience.
“Words are to me are very cheap, you can say whatever you want to say but you got to prove what you’re going to do,” London said.
Others in attendance agreed.
“Doing something right now is absolutely critical, given all the time that has gone by. The people want to see action, they want to see some results right now,” said Presley Gillespie, executive director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.
“At this point right now, by not knowing and not seeing any diagrams, not seeing any financials, I don’t have the hope right now in my mind that this is going to go,” London said.
London said he plans to hold Pastor Tyson accountable to his word, and hopes they’ll see some sort of plan soon.
Half of the amusement park was destroyed by a fire on April 26, 1984. The ballroom burned on March 25, 2001.