San Francisco has the SoMa — South of Market — neighborhood, Brooklyn has DUMBO — Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass — and Los Angeles has NoHo — North Hollywood. Now, Youngstown will have it’s own hip, acronymic neighborhood in the form of NOMA — North of Madison Avenue.
To be specific, NOMA encompasses the neighborhood immediately north of the Youngstown State University dorms from Madison Avenue to Wick Park. For those who spend any time north of campus, shops like Dorian Books, Edwards Flowers and those at the North Side Farmers’ Market have served as quirky staples for consumers looking to keep their money closer to home.
Building on the aesthetic established by these shops, a group of business owners is pushing to rebrand the neighborhood as a place for college students to enjoy local products and relax off campus.
Taking their cues from the loudest cries of the campus community, the Lake-to-River Food Cooperative will be opening a grocery store catering to those seeking local produce and healthier dining options than fast food. The grocery store will move into a building formerly housing a pawnshop that closed last year.
Lake-to-River is also opening a cafe — Cultivate — to fill the present coffee shop void north of campus.
Other proposed — but not guaranteed — businesses for the NOMA neighborhood include a wellness center, yoga studio, laundromat, micro-hostel at Dorian Books and hardware store. Basically, anything you can’t get downtown, the people behind NOMA want in their neighborhood.
Outside of the hardware store, it’s obvious that the minds behind NOMA are targeting college students, specifically the dorm dwellers. If successful, the business owners will make a tidy profit off the disposable income of the students. More than that, if the business owners make a profit off the students, they can continue to pour resources into further revitalization efforts to the area north of campus.
This rebranding as revitalization scheme has been successful in other — much larger — cities. Before the hip Brooklyn neighborhood DUMBO was DUMBO, it was essentially a riverside industrial neighborhood in the shadow of a huge bridge. A new name, a fresh injection of cash, the construction of lofts and the — arguably less important — addition of an old Idora Park carousel helped transform the neighborhood. Now, DUMBO commands a higher rent than the primordial hipster neighborhood, Williamsburg.
On the other side of the country, South Central Los Angeles is attempting their own rebranding. Locals want to separate themselves from the negative reputation the area received following the riots in 1965 and 1992. To do this, the city councilman representing the neighborhood is seeking to change all references to South Central Los Angeles to the acronym SOLA — South Los Angeles.
Of course, changing a name is a far cry from changing a neighborhood. If South Central Los Angeles doesn’t actively attack the issues contributing to its problems and seek change, the moniker SOLA will be little more than a happy face sticker covering a check engine light.
This is a reality it seems the architects of NOMA understand. Dried cornstalks attached to light poles lining Elm Street serve as fall accent pieces and new signage — sleek, black and minimalist — bears the neighborhood acronym. Abandoned buildings have been reclaimed, houses refurbished and grime beautified.
They’re putting the legwork into making the area feel safe and look desirable. Show your support by stopping by Dorian Books or the North Side Farmers’ Market this year, and check out the grocery store when it opens in the spring.
NOMA can’t succeed without student patronage. Help heal the city.
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