West side revival


1280px-Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_editedCould the key to Warren’s economic revival be lying quietly in a little visited west side neighborhood?

Some background: one reason that it is currently unlikely that a single large manufacturer will decide to build a new factory in Warren is that there are very few parcels of vacant land larger than two or three acres inside the city limits. That just isn’t enough room for most modern manufacturers who require larger spaces.

One exception is the land once occupied, in part, by Western Reserve High School, and in part by the former Westlawn neighborhood. Each of those adjacent parcels is approximately 35 acres — 70 acres together. You can view a map here: WIZ

This land is already cleared of buildings and given their former use pose no serious environmental concerns. The area has gas, electric, sewer and water lines. Road access to Market Street and the Ohio Turnpike is only adequate but could easily be improved. There is even a nearby rail line.

I call it the Westlawn Industrial Zone, but whatever we call it, it is perfect for light manufacturing, warehousing or distribution. Hundreds of people could work there. Imagine what that would do for housing values in the surrounding west side neighborhoods. Imagine the new investments that would be made to support those jobs with restaurants, retail, business services and more.

blankv2I first learned of this property a couple years ago from 7th Ward Councilman Eddie Colbert, who asked me to help him develop the idea. Colbert and I contacted several local agencies that we thought might have an interest, including the Warren-Youngstown Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Port Authority and the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Authority. They all found the idea interesting but informed us that we would need to pull together some resources to make it a marketable opportunity.

Some of those steps were beyond what a Councilman and private citizen could do; for example, the Westlawn property belongs to the city but the Western Reserve site belongs to the school board. The two need to be consolidated into one parcel. Next, any zoning issues need to be addressed, since no developer would be interested in a property with zoning issues that are his problems to fix.

We created a list of actions necessary to move the project forward; Colbert met with Mayor Franklin and Safety/Service Director Cantalamessa to discuss them, but the idea died there for lack of interest.

One of my first actions as Mayor will be to revive this idea and begin taking the steps necessary to make this an opportunity investors can act on. Allowing this west side property to just sit there growing weeds is like having gold nuggets scattered around your back yard and being too lazy to go pick up a rake.

We can do better.

Posted Monday, September 14th, 2015 under Economic development, Election, Warren strategic plan.

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