LEETONIA, Ohio (WKBN) — Leetonia’s deep history with coke ovens will now be preserved thanks to a grant that will go toward building a new civic center and a new partnership.

On Tuesday, the Village of Leetonia and Youngstown State University announced a partnership so students can use the center to learn.

The $5 million civic center will have a research center, museum and botanical gardens. It’s being funded through several grants and will be built on a location that incorporates Leetonia’s beehive coke ovens. The goal is to build on the history and resources that they offer.

“The coke ovens is a pinnacle part of our history. It’s where we prospered as a community,” says village Mayor Kevin Siembida. “We have the steel mills all through this area, but we produced the coke to make that steel.”

“Those have been preserved in quite elaborate structures, and we thought that a museum would be an ideal enhancement to that,” says Charles Howell, dean of Beeghly College of Liberal Arts, Social Sciences and Education. “It could provide archivable materials.”

Placing the multi-purpose center near the coke ovens opens up opportunities for many of YSU departments.

“I have always underpinned my upper-division classes with real-world experiences,” says associate geography professor Dawna Cerney. “They are going to work hand-in-glove with the individuals and professional that are going to be on-site.”

“These students have been studying ecology, climate change, land use, mapping and a variety of other subjects,” Howell says. “Now, they have a chance to put these to practical use in planning for this.”

Cerney says preserving these coke ovens is important for teaching people about the Valley’s past and the important role the Village of Leetonia played in the area’s industrial history. With the new civic center, there will be new opportunities for education, tourism and a sustainable future.

“For example, providing for water resources and making sure that with climate change, the increased flow through the creeks does not cause flooding,” Howell says. “Also, the opportunities for the local residents to plant their gardens.”

“This is a really exciting project for the Village of Leetonia,” Siembida says. “Not only Leetonia, but the whole region. This is going to provide economic activity, tourist destination to draw people into the community to help drive our commerce.”

The project is expected to break ground in 2025, according to Siembida.