Economic Development

WRPA Approves Deal to Develop Warren Properties

WARREN, Ohio – Surplus city-owned property could be developed more quickly under an agreement between Warren and the Western Reserve Port Authority.

The agreement, approved Wednesday by the port authority’s board of directors at its monthly meeting, will allow the city to transfer property it owns but no longer needs to the port authority, which can act more quickly to develop the property.

Discussions between the port authority and the city began “in earnest” about nine months ago, said Enzo Cantalamessa, Warren’s director of service and safety. “As a city, controlling property is one matter. Disposing of property can at times become cumbersome.”

Currently, Warren City Council – which must approve the agreement – has to designate the property as no longer needed for a public purpose and authorize the mayor or safety and service director to seek public bids for sale or lease of the property.

“One of the big issues is we have to go out for bid for the appraised value of the property,” added Mike Keys, community development director. “We can’t make deals with the developer like the port authority can make.”

Through a mechanism provided in the Ohio Revised Code, council members could deem the property unneeded for municipal purpose and transfer it to the port authority, which could then work directly with a potential developer without having to put the site out for bid.

“These statutory code sections exist to enable this very type of activity, and for the city and the port not to take advantage of it as a partnership does a disservice for everyone,” Cantalamessa said. “When you say you’re committed to economic development but you’re not using every possible tool available to achieve true economic development, you’re being disingenuous.”

Moreover, streamllining the process is important, said John Moliterno, the port authority’s executive director.

“Some of these things need to happen fairly quickly. When you have an opportunity, you can’t wait for months and months to make it happen,” he said.

Depending on how the deal is structured, the port authority could receive an administrative fee with other proceeds from the sale going to the city.

There are properties in the city that potentially could be transferred to the port authority under the arrangement once it is finalized by the city. They include the building at 418 Main Ave. S.W., the site of the Morningside power plant that the city cleaned, and property at the intersection of Main Avenue and South Street, Keys said.

“These are developable properties that the port authority can work well with us on,” Keys said.

“There could be several [properties],” Cantalamesa added. “It’s going to be taken on a case-by-case basis but this was the first logical step.”

Council is expected to take up the agreement at its July 26 meeting, Keys said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.