Wednesday, June 30, 2010

President of Global Green Visits Youngstown

Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Global Green USA, visited Youngstown on Tuesday and met with local government officials to talk about Global Green's plans to help the city improve its efforts to go green. Global Green is a comprehensive, environmentally-focused nonprofit organization that addresses some of the "greatest challenges facing humanity," especially through its efforts to provide a safe, clean, and sustainable living environment to communities. Global Green works with governments, nonprofit organizations, education systems and other local groups to help them find practical, affordable strategies for making environmentally conscious development decisions. They also help organizations secure funding for initiatives that help to accomplish these goals.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Global Green stepped in through its Holy Cross Project and helped to build a low-cost, environmentally-friendly housing development within the city. Global Green also retrofitted schools in New Orleans with practical weatherizing and energy-efficiency improvements that are saving the city tens of thousands annually on utility costs. Global Green is based in Los Angeles and also has offices in New Orleans and Washington DC.

Petersen expressed to city council that he believes Youngstown has the potential to become a model of sustainable redevelopment for the entire Midwest; and possibly for the nation. Global Green is committed to assisting city government and local organizations by helping them acquire resources and develop strategies to improve sustainability within the community. They are currently working directly with the Community Development Agency to produce a report that investigates the carbon footprint of both city government and the city at large. Upon its completion, this report will help city officials figure out how to operate more efficiently and save money on energy costs. Global Green has also begun discussions with local community organizations in order to partner with and compliment their environmentally-conscious efforts.

For more information about Youngstown's partnership with Global Green,  take a look at the The Vindicator's December article.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Public Meeting to Discuss Hubbard Arterial Ammendment at the Covelli Centre

A public meeting will be held on Tuesday June 29th at 5pm at the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown to discuss a potential amendment to the Eastgate 2030 Long Range Transportation Plan. The City of Youngstown asked Eastgate to amend the plan to include the Hubbard Arterial Project.

The meeting will be used to discuss the amendment process and to gather public input. For more information, please check the City of Youngstown Website and the Vindicator report.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Idora Neighborhood Transforms Vacant Property into Lots of Green

What were once blighted buildings and weed-covered lots are now being transformed into tilled topsoil and fertilized planters for fresh produce in Idora Neighborhood on the south side of Youngstown. Bulldozers can be seen working at vacant sites all throughout the neighborhood, leveling and preparing land for conversion to gardens and public green space.

Idora Neighborhood is a test site for Lots of Green, a project initiated by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) in order to "[transform] the challenge of unmanaged vacant land into neighborhood assets." The process involves the systematic removal of derilict buildings and the reclamation of vacant lots in targeted neighborhoods. These lots, in turn, are adaptively re-used and converted into a wide range of public green space uses, based upon the specific needs and interests of the neighborhood.

In Idora, YNDC has joined forces with the Community Development Agency to get the neighborhood's blighted homes and buildings systematically deconstructed and demolished using federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding. YNDC also raised funding to cover the cost of the plants, trees, tools, and landscaping needed to transform these vacant lots into productive space.

In total, the Lots of Green project is in the process of recovering over 125 neglected properties interspersed throughout Idora Neighborhood, converting them into assets instead of liabilities. Approximately 150 lots will be improved by the time the project has been completed.

These lots are being re-purposed for a wide variety of different uses based closely on interests of the neighborhood's residents. Lots adjacent to Mill Creek Park, which borders the neighborhood on three sides, are being returned to the forest for the park's expansion or converted into rain gardens to reduce water pollution and soil erosion. Smaller sites located between houses are being leveled for passive green space or as side lots for neighbors using native plantings and special low-maintenance grasses. Some of the larger locations are being used for raised-bed community gardens where neighbors and the public are welcome to adopt space and plant produce. On Mineral Springs Road, a large lot is being set aside for the Mineral Springs Demonstration Farm, and urban agriculture project that will include community space. One site is even being used as a research garden for Ohio State University.

This community-based, institutionally-supported project falls directly in line with the Idora Neighborhood Plan, a community planning document for the neighborhood's redevelopment. The plan recommends that blighted, vacant space should be re-used for productive,purposes that engage the community. Both the Idora plan and the planting initiative directly follow the guidelines of the Youngstown 2010 CityWide Plan, which calls for the reclamation of vacant land for green space in order to reduce blight, improve neighborhood conditions and right-size the city for a smaller population.

Lots of Green in Idora is another example of why Youngstown is being looked toward as a model of sustainability. This initiative is drawing attention for its use of community-based planning strategies and because of its innovative and comprehensive approach to neighborhood stabilization. If successful, it will serve as a model for future efforts of revitalizing vacant property throughout Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mahoning County Land Bank Wins Funding Award

Last week, EfficientGovNow announced that Mahoning County will be awarded with $61,420 for its Collaborative Land Bank Program. The cities of Youngstown, Campbell, Struthers, and Austintown Township worked together with Lien Forward Ohio to submit a funding proposal. EfficicentGovNow is an initiative sponsored by the Fund for Our Economic Future which provides competitive grants for public projects in Northeast Ohio that involve government collaboration. Winning projects are chosen by popular vote, and all residents of Northeast Ohio may participate in the voting process via the web, phone, or paper ballot.

The Mahoning River Mayor's Association, Mahoning County Treasurer's Department, Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, and Lien Forward Ohio helped raised awareness in order to get residents of the Mahoning Valley to vote in this competition. Their efforts were a major success. Only four out of the total number of projects in the competition received funding, and of those projects, the Mahoning County Land Bank topped the list.

The funding will cover 80% of the project's proposed start-up budget. This is the second year in a row that the Mahoning Valley has won funding from EfficientGovNow for collaborative government projects. The community's strong voting response demonstrates the Valley's commitment and desire to see governments work together for the benefit of the entire region.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Youngstown Launches Rental Property Registration Program

On May 26th, 2010, the City of Youngstown launched its new Rental Property Registration program. As of June 1st, 2010, all landlords will be required to register their rental properties annually. This program was launched to work toward several objectives that will increase the quality of life in the city.

The registration program provides the city with the ability to account for all of the rental properties within its boundaries. Up until this point, no complete list of rental properties existed, making data collection, service provision, and inspection difficult tasks to accomplish. With information about every rental property at hand, the city will be able to better serve the needs of both renters and property owners.

The program also helps the city to ensure that residents have a living environment that is both safe and healthy by providing mandatory annual inspections of all rental properties. Through this measure, the program will discourage irresponsible and neglectful property owners and provide an effective structure to hold them accountable to both the city and the community at large. Landlords with properties that fail to meet minimum quality of life standards will be fined and forced to undergo additional inspections until their property is up to code. This measure also protects the investment of responsible property owners by reducing blight in the city.

The Rental Property Registration Program will provide the city with a strong tool for data collection and enforcement. It will ultimately help to improve the quality of life for residents and provide a more stable business environment for property owners. With the goal of benefiting city residents and responsible property owners, the program seeks to educate the public and start a dialogue about how to best reduce the impact of irresponsible landlords.

Coupled with a variety of additional tools and strategies, registering landlords will help the city to better provide a fair, friendly and attractive rental environment for both renters and property owners alike.

For complete information, the press release, and a copy of the Rental Property Registration form, please visit the City of Youngstown's official Rental Property Registration Page.