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Economy and Business

Youngstown's plan to shrink is slowly coming together
Some residents impatient with rate of change

Karen Schaefer
The former steel city is trying to reshape its image, while physically shrinking housing and building stock
Courtesy of Karen Schaefer
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Youngstown got a lot of national and even international attention two years ago when it formally decided to shrink the city. Since then the former steel town has been tearing down abandoned houses with the goal of pulling out of some neighborhoods and turning them into urban gardens or public green space. Some say the plan is working " others aren't so sure.
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The sound of bulldozers knocking down buildings is a familiar one in most cities, but in Youngstown it's a constant sound track. Since the collapse of the steel industry in the 1970's the city's population has shrunk from 170-thousand residents to less than 73-thousand. A few years ago, Youngstown decided to embrace its new size. The city adopted a redevelopment plan called Youngstown 2010. A key component is to knock down abandoned homes and vacant buildings and then to leave the property open, rather than redevelop it. City planner Anthony Kobak says eventually some neighborhoods will be abandoned and utilities permanently turned off.

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Youngstown 2010 plan

NPR: Small is Better for Youngstown, Ohio

Listener Comments:


The problem is that Youngstown has lost over 1/2 it's population. I used to live in a nice House in youngstown in a nice neighborhood and bought the house for $17,000. When I left, 4 of the eight houses on our Cul-de-sac were empty and I sold my house to a neighbor for $6000 who tore it down rather than watch it become an Eyesore.

No matter what kind of incentive you give, we've got a surplus of housing thats too expensive to maintain.

For years, concerned residents have joked about "Nuking Youngstown and starting over" and that's what Youngstown 2010 is about. The harsh reality is that many neighborhoods are not going to recover. Take a look at the Northside where urban homesteaders have tried for years to restore ad maintain those mansions-yet there are less and less stores and facilities to support them.

Youngstown is on the right path. The harsh truth is services need cut, Eyesores need pruned, and growth needs to be promoed only where it will do the most good.

Posted by: Lou (Youngstown ( on March 20, 2009 9:31AM
Not a bad idea, but I can't help but wonder if they wouldn't have been better off giving those homes to families who could qualify for a small home improvement loan (providing they actually live in the houses and not rent them out or try to re-sell them at a profit). It seems to me that a lot of people now struggling to pay on bloated mortgages might have been happy to have the chance to own a home outright and make improvements to it as needed (though certainly some are beyond repair)...

Posted by: Joe (Kent) on March 19, 2009 2:25PM
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