YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Work is underway to transform a building near downtown Youngstown into new lodging options for visitors to the city.
Erin Timms owns the 145-year-old Calvin Center building at 755 Mahoning Ave. She is converting it into seven apartments that would be rented out for short stays through AirBNB.com, VRBO.com, and other travel lodging websites.
She hopes to have at least two of the units ready before the end of summer.
“We’re in a good location,” Timms says, noting the building is within walking distance of downtown, including Covelli Centre and Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. It is also a very short drive to Youngstown State University and St. Elizabeth-Youngstown Hospital.
The rental units would be especially attractive to travelers looking “for something different” than a hotel, she says. The historic building features original wood flooring and massive windows that flood its rooms with light.
Each fully furnished room would have a refrigerator, a microwave and a toaster oven, but not a stove. “I would rather guests go to a restaurant to eat,” Timms says.
The city’s design review committee approved the project May 3 but with the stipulation adequate parking is provided for guests. Timms says that is not a problem. Her next hurdle is to gain the county’s approval for her construction plans.
Timms is waiting on approval for a $200,000 loan for the renovation work, which will determine how fast it is completed.
“If I am approved for less than that amount, then [completion of all seven apartments] will go slower,” she says. “Or I could scale back [the project]. I have to be flexible.”
Plans call for one unit on the first floor, and three on both the second and third floors.
The large chapel room on the first floor will continue to be rented out for receptions, meetings and other uses.
The room formerly was the home of Rust Belt Theater Company, which moved out at the end of last year for a new location inside Club Switch on Belmont Avenue.
Calvin Center’s former tenants the past five years also included a yoga studio and an artist’s studio.
Timms purchased the building for $86,000 from the estate of her brother in 2018. An archaeologist and urban preservationist, she has made its restoration and reuse her life’s work.
A substantial amount of work has already been completed, including rewiring, plumbing, painting, and installation of new windows and a new roof. Three of the apartment unit bathrooms have already been added, and new locks have been added to all interior and exterior doors that require a code to unlock.
First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver fully supports the Calvin Center project.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea and it’s the way Youngstown should be going in converting some of these older buildings – short stay or condos,” he says. “This will bring more people downtown and support what we are trying to build: a thriving city.”
Calvin Center is in Oliver’s ward.
While there are many apartments and houses in the city listed under short-term rental websites, the Calvin Center project is unique and new to Youngstown, Oliver says. The city does not even have an ordinance governing such a business and will have to write one, he says.
“It’s like a mini-hotel,” Oliver says.
Calvin Center is located in the Spring Common neighborhood, a narrow strip on the edge of downtown. The neighborhood is already the home of The Ward Bakery Market, where dozens of artists and artisans have studios; B&O Station; Star Supply; Santisi’s Wholesale Foods, Youngstown Maennerchor and Hopewell Theatre.
Timms says she loves the neighborhood and can see its potential.
“It’s close to downtown but it has that grit,” she says. “In New York City, they would recognize it but here we struggle with it.”
She has retained architect William Walton of Syracuse, New York, whom she says has experience in restoring old buildings into commercial use, for the project.
Timms already operates a fully licensed commercial kitchen in Calvin Center, where she makes healthy foods for clients as a personal chef. She also wants to expand that business.
Pictured at top: Erin Timms stands in a completed one-room rental apartment in Calvin Center. Timms plans to renovate the building into seven apartments that will be rented through AirBnB.com and other similar websites.