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Close up: Pictures and sounds from Ohio's shrinking city

What does Youngstown look like on the ground? That's what you all want to know, right? Or, at the very least, you urban planners out there.

Youngstown is very much like Detroit. Yet it's considerably smaller. The blight isn't noticeable in the heart of downtown, but drive five miles in any direction and you'll find it.

There is a place, less than a mile from Youngstown State University, called Smoky Hallow. There are considerably more tires on an 18-wheeler than houses in this neighborhood. Go east and a little north to the Eastside of Youngstown and it's pretty much just infrastructure where houses should have been built, but never were. And, in most cases, those built were burnt down.

Go west and south and you'll end up in Youngstown's Westside, where images of Livonia will flash across your eyes.

Cross Mill Creek Park, going east again and you'll end up in Youngstown's Southside. The Southside, home of former middleweight boxing Champ Kelly Pavilk, is very much like Detroit's East Side. It's vacant, blighted, poor, predominately black. Vacant city blocks are dotted with houses, half of which are blighted.

North of that is downtown. Downtown is vibrant, a place for a drink, a show, a bite to eat. There isn't much living density, mostly banks and bars and restaurants, but it doesn't stop people from coming down and enjoying Youngstown's universal neighborhood.

What this means is that Youngstown isn't just one blighted, empty community -- just like Detroit isn't just the Packard Plant or emptiness and blight. To give you the whole picture (quite literally) here are three insights into different parts of Youngstown.

Here's a ride through Youngstown's Westside and a talk with Youngstown resident, champion, and blogger John Slanina.




Here's a look at Wick Park, a transitional neighborhood a few blocks from Youngstown State University. It's a neighborhood in flux but powered by some very passionate people. One of which is Phil Kidd, a community organizer for the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and founder of Defend Youngstown, a grassroots campaign to get the word out about Youngstown. Kidd accompanies this walk through Wick Park.


Finally, Idora. This neighborhood is in the southern half of Youngstown. It's a community with a lot of pressure on it. Surrounded by more challenged communities, Idora, through the work of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, and a strong neighborhood association, is trying to save itself through planning. And, when you talk to the people involved, it's seems as if it's just around the corner.

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