Construction to start in December
YOUNGSTOWN — A downtown pedestrian mall along a section of North Phelps Street should be ready by July 2020.
The city’s Design Review Committee on Tuesday approved the designs of the street between West Federal and West Commerce streets.
The city will start construction on a long-delayed sewer project on the street sometime after the mid-December holiday parade, said Annissa Neider, an architect with MS Consultants Inc., which is designing the pedestrian mall. The street has been closed on and off for several years because of a variety of projects and delays to that work.
The sewer work was initially scheduled for six years ago, but grinded to a halt only a month after it started largely because of previously unknown underground utilities that were directly in the path of the sewer line.
The sewer work will take about two months to complete while turning the street into a pedestrian walkway should take about four months, said Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works.
The pedestrian mall part will include raising the street to be level with the sidewalk, decorative lampposts and a gateway arch that’s at least 13 1/2-feet high on the West Commerce side, Neider said. Also, similar street improvements will be made to a small section of Phelps, north of West Commerce by Erie Terminal Place, she said.
“It’s going to look a whole lot worse before it looks better,” Shasho said.
He added: “It’s a long-time coming. People are going to be wowed by it. That street’s been torn up a long time.”
Approval of the pedestrian-only walkway was part of a busy agenda for the committee that also authorized designs for three proposed downtown eateries.
“It’s exciting to see private investment rather than just government buildings downtown,” Shasho said. “People are spending their own money and making private investments.”
The Design Review Committee is in charge of approving exterior work for projects downtown and areas near it.
The Mocha House will open a location at the 101 E. Federal St. campus of Eastern Gateway Community College at the end of this month, said Arthur Daly, the college’s vice president. The Mocha House received approval to install signs on the building.
The spot has been vacant since October 2014, when a Los Gallos Mexican restaurant closed less than a year after it opened. Before that, it was Cafe Cimmento for about eight years.
Meanwhile, Earl Winner, the owner of Tavern 208 Bar and Grill at 200 and 208 W. Front St., said he wants to open his restaurant next month.
He’s spending about $300,000 to $400,000 to remodel the two vacant buildings — the former St. Vincent DePaul Society dining hall and an attached closed cigar store. The location is across the street from the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater, which opened in June.
The cigar store shut down several years ago. The dining hall closed in June 2017 after the Mahoning County Building Inspection Department determined it to be structurally unsafe.
Winner received approval from the committee to remove one man door and install another, put in four overhead glass doors and add more stones to the exterior.
Also receiving approval Tuesday was work for a proposed Mexican restaurant, Gringos Tacos and Tequila, 20 and 24 N. Phelps St. About $200,000 is being spent to make improvements to the former Commonwealth Land Title Agency of Youngstown Inc. building with the restaurant opening in late spring 2020.
The committee approved the removal of the Commonwealth canopy and improvements to the building’s entrance.
The committee also gave the go-ahead to a $500,000 expansion at the United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 255 N. Watt St., that includes a new meeting room and roof improvements, and additional signs and exterior seating for up to 12 people at Joe Maxx Coffee Co., 265 W. Federal St. The seating is seasonal with the chairs and tables brought inside when the coffee shop closes about 4 p.m. weekdays.