Economic Development

Mark Marvin Believes in Downtown Warren

WARREN, Ohio – Mark Marvin is preparing to test the waters for a new market for downtown Warren.

In the next few weeks, the president of Downtown Development Group will present the first set of condominiums he is completing in the Mahoning Building at 197 W. Market St., one of seven properties he owns and is redeveloping for residential and commercial use.

As of June 1, the four condos on the fifth and sixth floors of the building – two two-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom apartments – were two weeks from completion. Tradesmen were finishing the tile and granite work, carpeting was due to arrive the following week and stainless-steel appliances awaited installation.

Floors one through four will be leased for office space, including the recently vacated third floor for which Marvin is seeking a tenant. Among current tenants are the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, who maintains his Mahoning Valley office there. Marvin is keeping the top floor as an office and penthouse for himself.

“There’s a revitalization of downtowns all over the country,” Marvin says. “We’ve seen it and we see a little bit of it happening in Warren and we hope to enhance that that much more. It’s given us an opportunity to put our feet into something that we’ve always wanted to do. Now we’re doing it.”

Marvin pursued his interest in development after leaving Reinforcement Systems of Ohio, the company he brought to Warren in 2009.

The condo concept represents a shift from Marvin’s thinking when he acquired the Mahoning Building in 2015. At the time, he announced plans to develop apartments there and in other downtown properties.

Based on his discussions with the people there, condominiums better suit “the dynamic of what downtown is right now,” Marvin says.

“We have a lot of residents downtown that are not renters. They own their building and they’re working in their building,” he continues. “So, we actually wanted to test the waters on what it would be like to put residences here for ownership.”

Joe Mangine, owner of Ro-Ma Contracting, Hubbard, general contractor on the project, says work is going well.

“By and large, the building’s well built. They used to do stuff good back in the day,” Mangine says. “There was some great craftsmanship.”

He is pleased to see someone “taking the initiative to fix up the downtown area,” Mangine says, and restore the buildings rather than raze them. “New is nice, but it’s good to build up what was existing and save it,” he says.

Marvin has revamped security in the Mahoning Building, the developer says. Every employee in the leased space has an individual code to the punch-key pads, allowing entry to their offices in off hours. Condo residents will have their own codes that work only on their units.

Interest has been “phenomenal,” Marvin says, including from people who moved away but want another home in the area.

Although he resisted showing the units while they were under construction, he relented for eight persistent people who insisted on getting a feel and seeing the view.

“The interest is great and we don’t want to dampen the interest,” Marvin says. “However, we would like people to see these in their finished state.”

Still, some offered to make a down payment on a unit.

The single-bedroom residences on the northern face of the building, with a view that overlooks Courthouse Square, will sell for $125,000, while the two-bedroom units at the rear will be priced at $175,000. The residential floors will have a private access that will deny entry to anyone other than residents, he says.

Once work is completed at the Mahoning Building, Marvin says his company will immediately begin work on the building he owns at 124 N. Park Ave. There he plans to develop another three condominiums on its upper level. The Sew Cute! Sewing shop is on the first floor.

“We’re looking at other areas downtown to develop condominiums as well because we feel that locks [downtown residents] into the community more. And that’s really what we want,” he says. “If there’s the ownership value downtown, then there’s a care, a concern about how the downtown develops.”

All of his downtown Warren properties are near 100% occupancy, Marvin reports, except a building he acquired at the end of January. A barbershop will move into the top floor of the Atrium Building July 1, bringing that building to full occupancy.

He is in the midst of gutting the first floor of 118 N. Park and “getting it prepared to have a tenant come in and do their own buildout,” he says.

“We envision maybe a small restaurant or a pub,” he says. “We’ll fit it out for the client that comes in.”

At 112 N. Park Ave., the former Gene’s Jewelers, Nova Coffee Co. is “doing great,” Marvin continues.

Nova Coffee opened two months ago and business is going well, confirms owner Logan Reinard. The shop offers a full espresso bar and fresh doughnuts made in-house. Business is steady though the week and lines are “through the door” on Saturday, he reports.

“We’re getting ready to extend our hours and our menu,” Reinard says.

By the time he completes his projects, Marvin estimates he will have spent $5 million in downtown Warren. He expects that work to wrap up next year.

Meantime, Marvin says he is looking at sites in downtown Youngstown and Cleveland for projects, but has not acted because of the scope of the work underway in Warren.

Mayor Doug Franklin calls Marvin “a great asset to downtown.” And the developer’s efforts have encouraged others to follow his lead, the mayor says.

“What his investment has done has spurred other investment and other interest,” Franklin says.

“We’re seeing a ripple effect,” Franklin says.

The mayor cites Christopher Alan, who is developing the property on Dana Street once occupied by General Electric to serve as the headquarters of his company, AutoParkit LLC. Alan has purchased several properties in and around downtown to repurpose, including the old Shaker mansion.

Beyond his downtown Warren properties, Marvin is looking at the “peninsula” just west of Courthouse Square for potential development, according to the mayor. “There is a particular property that he’s eyed for investment and we’re working with him to make that happen,” he says.

“One of the things that the peninsula offers,” Marvin says, “is the opportunity to bring a grocery store like an Aldi or a Giant Eagle or a Trader Joe’s or whoever we can talk to that has an interest down there.”

“The more people that move downtown and reside in the downtown, you must have a place to shop, to get your groceries. And it’s an easy walk right across the bridge to the peninsula to get your groceries. That would be ideal,” he continues. Marvin says he also is considering condominiums there as well.

And Marvin says he’s in “continuing talks” with the city regarding the peninsula properties, some owned by Warren Redevelopment and Planning, and is “close to cutting a deal.” He also has had “very preliminary discussions” with interested grocers.

“They’re waiting to see what the dynamic is downtown and what happens downtown,” he says.

There are “some delicate issues” regarding the peninsula because the city doesn’t own all of the property, Franklin says. “There is a particular property that [Marvin has] eyed for investment and we’re working with him to try to make that happen.”

Pictured: Development in downtown Warren, led in part by Mark Marvin’s Downtown Development Group, is having a ripple effect across the city.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.