A good general rule of thumb is, if Bruce Springsteen writes a song about your city, things aren’t looking so good for you. But, just in case we’re missing something, let’s take a closer look.
Youngstown, Ohio, located about 15 miles from the Pennsylvania border has become the de facto example of post-industrial decline. The steel boom of the early part of the 20th century transformed the city into an urban center that was left abandoned in the late 1960s. As the common Rust Belt parable goes, the industry pulled out, leaving Youngstown impoverished, empty and crime-ridden, with no sustainable economy in sight.
The city’s saving grace was the development of Youngstown State University, an affordable and generally well-regarded public institution. The university now draws in a large and diverse body of students and functions as the city’s number one employer.
What about Youngstown activities and nightlife? Well, one wouldn’t necessarily say that Youngstown is happening. Many of the urban activities popular during the city’s golden steel years have vanished from sight, and most shopping, dining and nightlife is centered in suburban strip malls or at national chains. There are, however, plenty of green spaces throughout the city, including Ohio’s oldest park, Mill Creek, located southwest of downtown. Additionally, the site of several large abandoned steel mills has been converted into an arena, where the Youngstown Phantoms play in the United States Hockey League.
What about some of Youngstown’s less-than-creative nicknames, like “Murdertown, USA”? Or the fact that “Youngstown Tune-Ups” became common parlance for assassination by car bomb? Well, rest assured that organized crime is on the decline in Youngstown, as police crackdowns and the end of the television series The Sopranos has put an end to many Youngstown mafia references in popular culture.
Do yourself a favor and live on the north side of Youngstown. Because of a declining population, many homes and apartments throughout the city lay abandoned, making all neighborhoods completely variable from block to block. However, the north side, particularly the area around Gypsy Lane, tends to be the safest and best maintained in the city, as it is on the border with the wealthier Liberty Township. Newer apartment developments and rental homes around the Stambaugh Golf Course and Youngstown Country Club are some of the nicest places in town.
Downtown and Campus
Downtown Youngstown remains a hollowed out shell of a city. Though major development is planned to revitalize urban areas, most real estate in downtown is abandoned and structurally unsound commercial buildings, or lots leftover from razing them.
In a city plagued by high crime statistics, Youngstown State’s campus remains one of the heaviest-policed and therefore safest and best-maintained areas. It also has a lot of affordable rentals, often with flexible lease options for students. Youngstown families and professionals may be more comfortable on the quieter north side, however, portions of nearby Wick Park have sedate rental homes and apartments fairly bereft of students keeping odd party hours.
Immediately surrounding YSU are two areas with slightly sketchy reputations—Arlington and Smokey Hollow. Both of these neighborhoods have seen high crime rates in recent years, though the city has outlined plans for creating New Urbanist housing developments here in the near future. These regions are somewhat of a gamble, but it's totally doable to locate affordable and safe blocks within some of the more dangerous parts of this area.
That really leaves the far west side, particularly near Lake Glacier, as the only remaining inhabitable part of town. Similar to the north side, newer apartments and homes here mean nicer rentals and a lower crime rate.
Prices for Youngstown rentals are generally the same throughout most neighborhoods, depending on building amenities. Single-family homes will cost more than apartments, typically going for about $400-600, depending on size. One-bedroom apartments generally go for $300-450.
Many Youngstown apartments are rented through management companies and online apartment websites. The whole process of securing your rental should be fairly cheap and painless, with deposits generally going from $100 to one-month’s rent, and application fees usually below $20.
Because of its sprawl, Youngstown is predominately a car city. Since nearly half the population has vanished since the middle of the 20th century, there isn’t much in the way of traffic. Interstate 680, the main artery around the region is accessible to downtown Youngstown and remains fairly clear throughout the day.
Youngstown is serviced by the Western Reserve Transit Authority, which operates several fixed route bus lines throughout Mahoning County. The main depot is located in downtown Youngstown, connecting to routes operating into nearby Liberty and Austintown Township.
So, welcome home! With its plethora of affordable real estate and a little bit of your help, Youngstown could be an up-and-coming, rebounding, Rust Belt City. Good luck & welcome to your new Ohio home!