Youngstown leaders travel to DC for grant to renovate central streets

The SMAR²T Project would completely renovate Fifth, Rayen and Park avenues, along with Front and Commerce streets downtown

Fifth Avenue improvement project near Youngstown State campus
View of Fifth Ave. at Lincoln Ave.


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The major players along Youngstown’s Fifth Avenue corridor were in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, lobbying for a federal grant to redevelop the area around the YSU campus and downtown.

Among the eight people were Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown, Mercy Health CEO Don Kline and YSU President Jim Tressel.

“When I’m a group looking to put in a business, I want to put the business where there’s activity so that the people working for me will have a better quality of life,” Tressel said during a conference call involving everyone who made the trip.

It’s being called the SMAR²T Project and would completely renovate Fifth, Rayen and Park avenues, along with Front and Commerce streets downtown.

The renovation would include new street lighting, sidewalks, crosswalks, landscaping and medians.

There would also be a bike share program and dedicated bike lanes connecting Mill Creek Park.

The city is requesting a $10.3 million grant from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. There will be a $10.2 million matching grant, with most of that money coming from the city.

“We’re coming to D.C. to show them how we’re working as a team. We’re kind of giving them a background of where we were and now where we are in the resurgence and economic growth,” Mayor Brown said.

Mercy Health CEO Don Kline said they are building on the momentum already created downtown, citing a 33 percent increase in workers since 2014, along with 2,000 new residents.

“This is helping us finish something that was already started and has already had a great impact,” Kline said. “This extra $10 million that we’re looking for will be a huge benefit the community sees.”

The group met with Sen. Rob Portman, Representatives Tim Ryan and Bill Johnson, Anthony Bedell — deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation — and senior staff of Sen. Sherrod Brown.

They should know by March if they will get the grant. The project is expected to begin in the spring of 2019.

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