YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Nearly a year after the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley moved out of its building on Martin Luther King Boulevard, the community is working toward preserving the building.
Among residents’ biggest questions Monday at the third ward council meeting, will it be torn down? Will the face of the building change?
Eric Holm, who is finalizing his purchase of the building, says no.
“We want to keep the historical character of the exterior and interior of the building as much as possible,” Holm said.
Before the Rescue Mission owned the building, it was the YMCA, predominantly used by Youngstown’s African-American community. The West Federal Street branch of the Youngstown YMCA opened in 1931 and is now one of the last standing YMCAs built for African-Americans.
“For the primary purpose of providing a recreation and education facility for the city’s African-American population,” said Bill Lawson, of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
Daryl Harvey worked at the YMCA after school in the ’70s, shortly before its closure, and says the facility was instrumental in keeping him off the streets.
“It taught me values that you didn’t have to rip and run the streets and do other things that were not good to do,” Harvey said.
Third-ward Councilwoman Samantha Turner said the city and the committee to save the building raised $15,000 for a study to analyze what the community wants for the building. One of the biggest requests was a museum honoring its impact on the Black community in the area.
The study estimated it would cost $7.5 million to restore and convert the building — a project Holm is willing to take on.
The Historical Society and the city are working with Holm to help get the building on the Register of Historic Places, which opens it up to additional grants and funds.
“There are so many resources out there to help bring this building up, and we want to make sure we are in the right position and the right place to do so,” Turner said.
Holm said restoring the building would take several years, and some of the bigger concerns with the location include a lack of parking and walkable streets.
Turner said once they decide what they want to do with the building, a more in-depth analysis will help them decide where the money is coming from.
For more information on the efforts to save the building, go to www.restorethey.com.