Thursday, January 20, 2005

Businesses pleases with revamped Plaza

The Jambar - pageone
Issue: 1/20/05


Businesses pleases with revamped Plaza
By Chuck Rogers

Larry Silver said he knew 31 years ago that closing Federal Street to car traffic was a bad idea. Recently the city of Youngstown came to the same conclusion.

Workers spent months removing the brick walkways and unused fountains that occupied the first blocks east and west of Market Street. The newly-repaved Federal Street was opened to through traffic Dec. 7 for the first time since 1973.

Now downtown business owners like Silver hope the change in the traffic pattern will cause an increase in traffic through their stores.

Barry Silver, who owns Silver's Vogue Shop along with his father, Larry, said he thinks that will happen. The men's clothing store has been a fixture on Federal Plaza West since 1971.

"People bring people," Barry Silver said, citing the improved access to stores and the expected growth in downtown jobs. He said he expects business to turn around when summer brings more pedestrians to the area.

Jason Logero, owner of The Bean Counter Café on Federal Plaza East, said he has already seen a difference.

"From that afternoon [of the reopening] on," he said, "there has been a nice, steady increase in business."

Logero said initially he was one of the reopening project's biggest skeptics. But now, he said, he thinks it is the best thing the city has done.

In 2003 he located his coffee house on Federal Plaza because he wanted to put something into downtown. A chef and former Youngstown State University student, he said he wanted to capture a "downtown feel" in his establishment.

"When you think of coffee places," Logero said, "the nice ones are always downtown."

Besides coffee, he sells gourmet sandwiches and beer, and has wireless Internet access for his patrons.

With more customers passing through his doors, Logero is considering expanding his business into a larger space adjoining his current location.

Recently opened businesses along the newly reopened thoroughfare include The Core, The Bad Apple, Geo's, B and B's Unique Ladies Boutique and Howard's.

B and B's and Howard's share the same storefront at the corner of Phelps and Federal Plaza West and are run by the husband and wife team of Bea and Howard Lindsey.

The couple opened the store in September after Howard Lindsey retired from his job as a YSU dormitory maintenance worker. The store combines ladies accessories with a news stand and lunch counter business. Purses and scarves are on one side and hot dogs, nachos, candy bars and newspapers on the other.

Bea Lindsey says she's optimistic about businesses opening in downtown Youngstown. She says a jazz club will open in a bay-windowed building down the street and a spa has recently hung its sign over a vacant storefront on the opposite corner.

"More traffic and Infocision coming into the Phar-mor building will generate a lot more traffic for the vendors," she said.

Infocision, an Akron-based telemarketing firm, is considering opening a call center in the Federal Plaza West office building. The center will initially employ 150 people and may eventually double that number.

A new U.S. Courthouse and office building, the Mahoning County Children's Services building and the Youngstown Convocation Center are being constructed in the downtown area as well.

The Federal Street project has also created almost 100 new 2-hour parking spaces to help downtown visitors get closer to the shops and businesses. Almost all were filled before noon Thursday.

As Larry Silver said, "People want to go through town, not around it."


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