One Woman’s Passion for Transforming the Buildings of the Calvin Center | News, Sports, Jobs
YOUNGSTOWN — The combination of a thorough upbringing and a tragic loss set Erin Timms on what could perhaps best be described as an ongoing path.
“My brother died when I was living in Providence (RI). He passed away in November 2015 and in June 2016 I moved back to Youngstown to take care of this building,” Timms, 47, recalled. “He was a big, big influence in my life.”
The 1994 Boardman High School grad who grew up in Boardman was referring to the three-story Calvin Center for the Arts at 755 Mahoning Ave., which Timms is redeveloping into a functional, mixed-use building in the shadow of downtown . Youngtown.
Before taking over the building, her late brother, Sean, who died of a heart attack at age 45, purchased the Calvin Center in 2009. Since then, Timms and her father, Robert Timms, have worked together to restore the top floor, she has explained.
After graduating from Boardman High, Timms worked a few years for the former North Star Steel Inc., where his duties included being part of the quality assurance team and technical departments. She was partly responsible for testing the strength of steel pipes.
Timms also studied art history and historic preservation at Youngstown State University and did excavation work on a blast furnace at Mill Creek Park. She later earned a master’s degree in industrial archeology from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, and then spent about 13 years in that field, Timms recalls.
Her work-related travels also brought Timms to Pawtucket, RI, where she worked at various industrial sites. The city was special to her largely because it is part of the Blackstone River Valley, which is said to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
“As an industrial archaeologist, I hit the jackpot,” she said.
Additionally, Timms spent approximately two years in the Atlanta area working for an engineering firm, as well as the Georgia Department of Transportation and on cell phone towers, which included performing environmental assessments. .
His time in and near town presented a challenge, however. The number of construction projects has declined mainly due to the collapse of the real estate market, she noted.
In the six years since returning to the Mahoning Valley, Timms worked tirelessly to transform the Calvin Center, which well-known builder and stonemason P. Ross Berry built in 1877 and was used in the origin as a school until the 1940s.
She cultivates a series of vegetable gardens consisting of mint, oregano, echinacea and other plants along the front and sides that fit her vegan lifestyle. It also has a kitchen to prepare meals for the community and for cooking demonstrations; additionally, Timms wants to develop a health and wellness cafe, she continued.
Other plans include creating an overhead bed-and-breakfast, as well as adding more dining space and several residential areas. Currently, Timms’ tenants are 680 Studios, a private tenant that studies music, and the Local Competitive Athletic Association, which promotes youth and adult sports leagues in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Timms reflected on the renaissance Youngstown has experienced since the steel industry’s demise in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as the recent years in which an increase in business and other activities occurred downtown. Nonetheless, Timms is a bit disappointed by what she sees as an unbalanced priority of demolishing structures at the expense of historic preservation.
“The reality is that we need housing, decent housing,” she said, adding, “We need to think more outside the box to develop Youngstown.”
Another remaining challenge is that some communities continue to fight for resources for themselves instead of working more harmoniously with each other in the city, she observed. Despite these and other challenges, Youngstown has the potential to strive for greater prosperity, Timms said.
It’s also important to develop and implement more positive ways to better the planet in a limited amount of time, she said.
“All we have is today,” added Timms.
Timms’ family also includes parents Robert and Kathy Timms, and sisters Shannon and Kristen.