Tom Hetrick, a Youngstown Neighborhood Development Cooperation planner, spoke to a handful of students in Kilcawley Center’s Gallery Room on Monday to discuss issues pertinent to the area.
The YNDC is a neighborhood development organization that works to improve Youngstown’s quality of life through neighborhood revitalization — rebuilding market confidence, strengthening citywide infrastructure and encouraging investment in the neighborhoods.
Challenges like Youngstown’s fading population and volatile housing market were addressed during Monday’s event.
According to YNDC’s Neighborhood Conditions Report — which utilizes data from the 2010 U.S. Census — Youngstown had a population of over 105,000 in 1990. The population decreased to just 65,000 by 2010.
The report also indicated that, since the recession of 2007, property values within the city have decreased significantly. As of 2013, the average value of a home rests at $21,000.
Eric Shehadi, a YSU student, said the city’s issues often parallel the university’s issues.
“We face a lot of the same challenges,” Shehadi said. “YSU has seen enrollment decline. The city — we’re seeing a population decline. How can we attract residents to the city? How can we attract students to the university? A lot of these issues go hand-in-hand.”
Shehadi, who is also a student trustee, said that vacant properties near campus are a cause for concern, especially as the university continues to make an effort to attract new students.
“You don’t want to mislead anyone, but you always want to show off the nicer things about the university. And I think more students want to be involved. We’re seeing more students go to YNDC work days,” he said. “I was glad to see that [the YNDC] were having [a meeting] at YSU. I think that YSU plays perhaps the most integral role in the future of this city.”
Hetrick agreed with Shehadi and added that YSU is regarded as one of the city’s top assets and that the areas surrounding campus are worth maintaining.
“We will be identifying where it makes sense to make improvements, and that would be around where the major assets are — to kind of improve the conditions right around and make them more attractive, make them places where people would like to go and visit,” Hetrick said.
The YNDC will not only work to improve the areas surrounding YSU, Hetrick said; they will also continue to develop a partnership with the university by working with interns from YSU.
“YNDC has already benefited from having a few interns from YSU. They’ve helped us out on a lot of projects, whether it’s planning projects or housing projects. Also, healthy food access. So I think there’s already a strong partnership,” Hetrick said.
Hetrick’s presentation on Monday is part of the YNDC’s attempt to reach community members and discuss issues that are most important to the Youngstown area. The non-profit organization has already held 10 meetings throughout the city’s neighborhoods and has hosted a citywide meeting at the Covelli Centre.