EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – The president of the East Liverpool Community Improvement Corp., Pat Scafide, believes if things go as planned, “You will see things explode” in the near future of his city.
Among those plans is a $2.1 state grant for which an application recently was filed. It is aimed at renovating the 1892 Thompson Building on Devon’s Diamond, according to Scafide.
The grant would come as a tax credit from the state’s Transformational Mixed-Use Development program.
“It cost the CIC $2,500 just to apply,” Scafide says. “We’re putting our money out there now.”
According to Scafide, there is a financial commitment from a developer who has promised a retail business on the street level of the historic three-story structure, after which the CIC would sell him the building for $1.
“We already have [office] spaces rented in the building. And that’s 45 jobs. It’s a pretty solid deal if we get [the grant],” Scafide says.
“With what Chef Ray’s going to do in the Diamond, people will see things explode. Ray’s will be a boost to the downtown. And we’ll have others wishing to locate around him,” he says.
Scafide is referring to Ray Stephens, who is opening Chef Ray’s Diamond Bar & Grill in a former office building near the Thompson Building.
Stephens says he is awaiting final approval from the state on his electricity permit, leading to approval of his food license and liquor permit.
“We’re at the state’s mercy,” Stephens says. His new establishment is 98% to 99% complete, with just some shelving to finish. “We’re pretty much ready to open.”
The city has been “outstanding,” Stephens says, and could not have been better to work with in opening his new venture.
Stephens also owns Chef Ray’s in Calcutta, which will continue to operate.
While a few downtown businesses have closed their doors in recent weeks, others have expanded their services. Among them is Our Vintage Memories, an antiques store that opened late last year and already has added a second floor of merchandise with plans to open its basement for sales.
Work continues on the M&K Winery on Sixth Street and a new retailer, Needless Things, has taken over the former location of Kight’s Korner on Fifth Street.
Meanwhile, plans to implement solar power for city-owned structures remain in place, according to city Councilman Tom Beagle.
The company, Scout Solar, is waiting for a state permit to get started on that project, which included the purchase of the former St. Aloysius School building to house the company headquarters.
Scafide points to work that has been completed in what he calls the “cultural district” where the Carnegie Library, Museum of Ceramics and Masonic Temple have undergone changes over the years.
“Hopefully, we can do something with the Review building,” he adds.
The structure formerly housed the East Liverpool Review newspaper, which is now printed in Lisbon.
The CIC is actively involved in acquiring dilapidated buildings with help from the county land bank, according to Scafide. Demolition of the large building at 606 Dresden Ave. was slated to begin at press time.
While plans remain up in the air for the long-vacant former East Liverpool Motor Lodge, the six-acre parcel where East Junior High School was recently demolished and the former Riverview Florist property, Scafide says if the city succeeds in receiving a $30 million Rural Transportation Grant, “That will be a game changer,” for the East End.
“This has always been the underserved part of our city,” he says.
Acquisition of that grant would mean a complete rebuild of Pennsylvania Avenue through that section of town, including sidewalks, lighting, and roundabouts.
Also seeing some improvement for the first time in many years is Dresden Avenue, a main entrance into the city from the Calcutta area where a $463,233 paving project is underway. The project includes road surfacing and ADA handicapped accessible ramps and sidewalks, according to CIC Executive Director Bill Cowan.
Pictured at top: The historic Thompson Building and Diamond Hotel are slated for renovation if a grant application is successful. The structure next door is Chef Ray’s Diamond Bar & Grill, which is set to open this month in downtown East Liverpool.