Youngstown’s wealthiest residents once lived on the gently sloping hills leading up from Wick Avenue and the downtown. By 1900, many had settled around Wick Park. They were the city’s first car owners, resulting in the development of the Wick Six dealership cluster on Wick Avenue.
However, by the early 1990s, the last of the dealerships had closed or moved to the suburbs. Wick Avenue was left with large, hulking, vacant buildings. Today, these buildings stand as sad reminders of outmigration and changing demographics. The buildings also are a blighting influence on the residential neighborhoods that the dealerships once served.
A few years ago, students from Kent State University – as part of an academic exercise – envisioned a lower North Side without the former dealerships. In their place, they saw green space and a Tiger Woods-designed golf course.
But is demolition the only solution? Could the former dealerships be repurposed as a 21st-century office park for tech companies being sprung from the Youngstown Business Incubator? Could the former Wick Six find new life with a light industrial purpose, like food manufacturing or warehousing? Is there space on Wick for the community’s creative class to take root and develop? All are worth considering.
The city of Youngstown owns 845, 907, 1075 and 1079 Wick Ave. Perhaps YSU’s Center for Urban Studies could develop a plan to find new, compatible uses for these buildings and other remaining structures in the district. A good comprehensive plan, if implemented, would transform what is presently a negative, blighting influence. Since the city owns many of the key properties in the corridor, chances for a positive outcome are good.
A repurposed Wick Six would lift the entire neighborhood. It would greatly improve an almost forgotten chunk of the lower North Side. Finding productive uses for these buildings would greatly help the city’s tax base. And who wouldn’t want that?
– Mark C. Peyko
Metro Monthly Editor
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