Economic Development

$7.5M-Plus Renovation in Store for Trumbull Family Fitness

WARREN, Ohio – Trumbull Family Fitness outlined plans Wednesday for multimillion-dollar upgrade and repurposing of its building, the former Warren YMCA.

The board of the fitness center and professionals engaged to work on the project presented their plans to add a medical-wellness center and convert the upper two stories of the building into high-end apartments. They did so in the offices of the Raymond John Wean Foundation.

To help determine the future of the building, Warren Family Fitness and its board chairman, Richard Thompson, engaged the Gateway Group, Cleveland, to analyze the structure to determine whether it should be saved.

“That conclusion has been a resounding, ‘yes,’ ” Tom Chema, Gateway Group principal and founder, told reporters and others. The building is structurally “very sound,” he said, but needs “a lot of love and help and change.”

During the past three years, he noted, the fitness center’s programming has substantially expanded, which has helped add new members and develop the sense that it is a community center for Warren and Trumbull County.

“What we’re proposing to do is totally redo the inner workings of this building so it’s efficient both from an energy point of view, but also efficient from the point of view of the people who are using the building,” Chema said.

“The building is first-rate. She’s tired. She requires revitalization. But this building is rich with potential,” affirmed architect Paul Volpe of City Architecture, Cleveland.

“You combine that with the building being off this exquisite town square, this Western Reserve town square, in the context of a beautifully planned and composed downtown, with many great buildings … and then put it in the broader context of the city of Warren itself [and] you see it is rich with potential,” Volpe continued.

Proposed changes to the building include the addition of an elevator off the main access hallway or “circulation spine,” gutting and redoing locker rooms, cleaning up both gymnasiums and rehabilitating the meeting rooms, he said.

Volpe is particularly excited about changes planned for the aquatics center. The larger pool would be renovated for swimming laps and lessons, while the second pool, which leaks, would be replaced with a prefabricated hydrotherapy pool. A family-size whirlpool, a smaller hydrotherapy pool and a children’s play area would be added as well.

The center will partner with a health-care institution to provide that component of the project.

“There’s always a danger in taking an existing building and calling it a wellness center because the functionality doesn’t always line up,” said Justin Berthiaume, principal of Berthiaume Consulting LLC, Akron, a health and wellness consultant. “But in this instance, with the amount of work that we’ve put in, I can say that it does.”

Repurposing the upper levels for apartments will capitalize on the growing movement in communities across the country, particularly among millennials, to live downtown where work and amenities are within walking distance and residents “have more of a vibrant, in-place social life,” Chema said.

Rather than attempt to develop the apartments itself, the fitness center would enter into a lease agreement with a developer, who could be responsible for redoing the upper levels, Chema said.

Mayor Doug Franklin, at the press conference, described himself as pleased by what he heard yesterday.

“This is exciting. You’ve pretty much hit on every single thing that our community needs,” he said.

“We have remained committed to our pledge of retooling our entire fitness facility and doing our part to contribute to the rebirth and revitalization of downtown Warren,” Trumbull Family Fitness Board President Richard Thompson said in a statement issued during the presentation. “Our building is a cornerstone of Courthouse Square and we’re proud and pleased to have reached this important milestone in our process of building for the future.”

At present, no one knows the exact cost but Chema estimated it would take between $7.5 million and $9 million.

“It’s not going to be one source of funds. It’s going to be multiple sources of funds,” he said. The “capital stack” will include tax credits, support from the medical partner, the apartment developer the center contracts with, and community philanthropy.

The center will pursue federal and historic preservation tax credits as well as federal new markets tax credits, he said. It recently learned that it meets the requirements to apply for the state historic tax credits. Although the state credits are awarded on a competitive basis, the approval “virtually guarantees” the project will receive the federal credits.

“If we can get those two pieces, we’ll have 55% to 57% of the capital stack,” Chema said. The goal is to have an application ready to compete in the March 2018 round of tax credit funding.

Chema hopes to have the medical-wellness center partner in place by the end of the year, he said, and an agreement with a developer for the apartments in place by the end of first quarter of 2018.

Pictured at top: Tom Chema from the Gateway Group, Paulette Edington, Trumbull Family Fitness executive director, and Richard Thompson, board president.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.