Chicago company presents ideas to beautify Youngstown’s vacant lots

Youngstown City Council said it's not ready to make a decision on Fresh Coast Capital's expensive proposal

A Chicago company presented ideas of what Youngstown could do with its vacant land.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Chicago company wants to help fix up Youngstown’s abandoned land.

Fresh Coast Capital’s April Mendez stood before Youngstown City Council’s finance committee Tuesday, selling her company as the one that can develop a plan to reuse Youngstown’s vacant land.

The city’s share of the plan is $350,000. The company is offering to pay $750,000.

Mendez threw out possibilities of what those spaces could be.

“Could we do urban forestry projects? Could we put in place advanced agriculture, larger scale greenhouses that bring food production to the local economy? Could we do wetland mitigation?”

Shandor Szalay, with the New York City-based AKRF Engineering, would help develop the plan.

“It’s just very encouraging to see the type of landscape you have in terms of lots of open space, lots of vacant property, wide right of ways,” he said.

Fresh Coast showed pictures of professionally landscaped areas. The set-up could ultimately decrease the flow of storm water into Youngstown’s sewage system, keeping some of it out of Mill Creek Park.

The city already has a long-term plan, primarily a new plant, to deal with the runoff. The green space plan would help but not replace it.

“The thought process is by doing this, we will both benefit the economics and the beauty of the community while reducing the cost of the long-term control plan,” said Youngstown Law Director Martin Hume.

However, implementing Fresh Coast Capital’s plan could be $25 million over 25 years. Youngstown City Council said Tuesday it was not ready to make that commitment.

Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Ray supported it, though.

“A long-term savings, those numbers, I mean, it could be substantial in the future savings of the city,” he said.

The rest of council wanted more information before deciding.

“I don’t think I would have been ready to vote for it today. I think we need to do all our research,” said Second Ward Councilman T.J. Rodgers.

Nate Pinkard, Third Ward councilman, said the project would cost a lot of money.

“We’re talking about a program with a 20-year ramification.”

Council decided to keep the Fresh Coast plan in the finance committee for now. If they did take a vote Tuesday, the consensus was it would have failed.

Mayor John McNally said he supports using the company to come up with a green space plan but knows it’s something council is struggling with.

Fresh Coast officials asked for a final decision in four to six weeks.

Editor’s note: A previous version of the story said the company offered to pay $350,000 for the proposal. The company actually offered to pay $750,000. The city’s share is $350,000. WKBN regrets the error. 

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