President Jim Tressel envisions a Youngstown State University connected both physically and synergistically to the community.
“We’re at an important crossroads in the history of YSU,” Tressel said during a presentation Tuesday on campus.
In the talk dubbed “Next-YSU: A New Look for a New Era,” the university president talked about plans for more student housing and retail space near campus, road improvements, office relocation on campus and plans for an entrepreneurial hub.
Overall, the ideas got a warm reception from those around campus.
“This is all happening because of President Tressel,” said Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation.
Area lawmakers support Tressel’s plans.
“I think he does a very good job of putting his vision out there and getting the Valley behind that vision,” said state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd.
Tressel outlined several projects and plans:
Student apartment complexes
University Edge is on Rayen and Lincoln avenues between Fifth and Belmont avenues. The Enclave, by LRC of Akron, is planned for Wick Avenue between Lincoln and Rayen avenues. NYO Property of Youngstown plans another set of apartments on the southeast corner of Wick and Rayen avenues.
University Edge’s first phase is expected to open this fall with 162 beds, all of which have been leased. A second phase would include 220 beds and is expected to open in fall 2017. Retail establishments are also part of the plan.
Tressel said the population of the five-county area from which YSU has historically drawn 85 percent of its students is shrinking. To attract students from outside the area, they have to have places to live, he said.
Mayor John A. McNally agreed. “I think for the university to compete, it really needs more housing for students,” he said.
Smith Hall on Fifth Avenue will be demolished to complete the project’s second phase.
“It will lead to more development over there,” the mayor said.
A “Meds to Eds to Tech to Rec” would connect St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital to YSU to the Youngstown Business Incubator to Mill Creek Park.
“The project would include improved transportation, biking and walking paths, green spaces, underground utilities and other enhancements to accelerate economic development,” Tressel said.
YSU is applying for a federal Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery grant for the project.
McNally said the grant could total about $15 million and involves YSU, the city, Eastern Gateway Community College, Western Reserve Transit Authority, the Diocese of Youngstown, Mercy Health, MS Consultants and other partners.
“It will be a significant improvement to that whole corridor,” McNally said.
Wick and Lincoln avenues
YSU is part of a Youngstown city improvement project on Wick and Lincoln, beginning in late summer. The work includes new road surfaces, underground utility lines and better lighting.
“Lincoln will be narrowed a little bit and parking allowed only on one side,” Tressel said.
He said the work will improve the appearance and safety of a main entry to campus.
The Wick parking deck will close May 9 for improvements and is expected to reopen Aug. 15.
Student Success Center
Plans call for the consolidation of all services related to student retention and success in a new Student Success Center in Jones Hall.
Many alumni view Jones as an iconic campus building, the president said.
The third floor of Jones will become a Student Success Center with a longer-range plan to expand into Maag Library with a connector between the two buildings. A multicultural affairs department also being established in Jones.
YSU is negotiating with Barnes and Noble for the company to take over the campus bookstore in Kilcawley Center. Barnes and Noble also may locate a stand-alone bookstore near campus.
Melnick and Fok halls
Melnick has been renovated and houses the YSU Foundation and WYSU-FM. YSU’s honors college has relocated to Fok Hall, formerly called Alumni House at the corner of Wick and University Plaza.
Tressel also talked about a Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization on campus. It would be an entrepreneurial hub with educational and research space. The project involves kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools, EGCC, YSU, YBI, Warren and Youngstown.
YSU was awarded $3 million of the $10 million requested in the state capital budget. The total project cost is about $30 million, but the YSU Foundation will raise a portion of the funds for the longer-range project.
McFadden said the foundation was waiting to see how much the state would fund the project and is in the early phases on fundraising.
“They said, ‘We’ll give you $3 million of the $10 million you asked for because we think it’s a good idea,’” he said.
After the foundation raises some of the funds, the university can ask for more state funding.
“They said, ‘Come back and see us in the next capital budget,’” Tressel said.
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, is among those excited about Tressel’s plans.
“It’s just an indication of us moving forward and working together,” she said. “We’re very proud with the budget as tight as it is that we were able to get the money out of the [state] capital bill to support the projects – anything we can to do highlight YSU. It’s the gem of our community.”
As a North Side resident, Lepore-Hagan said she’s “happy to see the development around the university.”