City Project Seeks ‘Full Potential’ of 20 Federal Place

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – City leaders will use a program supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission grant to help them re-envision 20 Federal Place.

The project was among six in Ohio – and 16 overall – selected to receive technical assistance from ARC’s Opportunity Appalachia initiative. Youngstown’s Board of Control approved accepting the grant at its meeting Tuesday. The city will provide $5,000 in in-kind matching services as its share of the project working with the Opportunity Appalachia consulting team. 

Opportunity Appalachia was developed by ARC to provide technical assistance to Appalachian communities that have a designated federal Opportunity Zone and are seeking to attract investment to specific projects within their zone, said urban planner Hunter Morrison.

Morrison, a senior fellow in urban studies at the Levin College of Cleveland State University, worked with Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and Youngstown State University to secure the funding. 

The technical assistance grant will be used “to prepare a market-driven redevelopment strategy for 20 Federal Place, a National Register historic department store with the potential for adaptive reuse as a vibrant mixed-use building anchoring Phelps Street and the east end of the West Federal Street district,” Morrison said. 

“Working with the city, the ARC will engage a team of professional development consultants to prepare a market-supportable mixed use development strategy, structure investable transactions, and create a prospectus and pitch deck targeting Qualified Opportunity Fund investors,” he continued.

“The Opportunity Appalachia team will help identify consultants whose skill sets align with each project’s needs, and allow those consultants to bid on the work,” said Rachel McCartney, research associate at YSU. 

The property is the largest building in downtown Youngstown, and its scale and location make it suitable for “a mixed use project that takes full advantage its proximity to the YSU campus,” Morrison said. The former Strouss department store has a large that some tenants will find will make it attractive for some uses and challenging for others. 

The building is near “several successful residential conversions that have established that there is a market for apartment living in downtown.” Some sections of the building might be developed for housing, he added. 

“It has large floor plates, which makes it attractive to certain types of open plan office use as well,” he said. Proximity to the bars and restaurants on Phelps Street suggest that the street frontages could be repurposed for outward-facing entertainment uses, he continued.

Based on the real estate patterns surrounding it, “I would expect the building can be developed for a mixture of housing, office and ground-level retail that engages fully with” Phelps Street, which is being redesigned now, he said.

According to Kathy Zook, ARC program manager at Eastgate, the types of technical assistance that can be provided through the program include: 

  • Development of investment prospectus, preparation of pro forma financial projections, structuring of projecting financing.
  • Market research.
  • Demand assessment, operations planning, identification of project developers business operators, outreach for project finance.
  • Outreach to opportunity zone investors.
  • Other types of assistance.

“I expect the [Opportunity Appalachia] team to help us to understand the building’s full potential, sort through these program elements, and work with us to determine a marketable mix going forward,” Morrison said.

The final funding amount is still to be determined, but Opportunity Appalachia will provide between $30,000 and $75,000 for each of the six Ohio projects, depending on their scope, Zook said. 

“There is such vibrance going on the city and this is taking it another step forward,” Zook said. “The application identified that there’s not a lot of commercial mixed-use [space] so this will increase the commercial potential for new and existing businesses.”  

Also picked for the program was Green Industrial Manufacturing Ecosystem Inc. in Struthers, she said. The application for that project included looking at downtown development, manufacturing and clean energy. “It was a well-rounded project,” she said. 

Morrison said he expects that ARC will engage its technical assistant team within the next several months. It will undertake analysis during the course of the summer and fall, completing its work by the end of the year. 

“We expect to be partnering with the ARC team in early 2021 to pitch the final 20 Federal Place development program to QQF investors,” Morrison said.