Commercial Activity Spans Mahoning Avenue Corridor

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Things are happening all along the Mahoning Avenue corridor in Mahoning County.

In Youngstown, a recently opened coffee house is drawing a steady stream of customers in a building repurposed using public funds. A few blocks away, the operators of another business are preparing plans to open a second establishment, also using a reclaimed property.

In Austintown, construction began this month on a long-anticipated Meijer store at the site of a former school and library branch. A township official reports this project already is stimulating other activity.

Further west, where Mahoning intersects with Bailey Road in Jackson Township, even more development is taking shape.

“The further west you go from Meridian Road, the more active it’s becoming,” says Don Thomas, owner and broker at Platz Realty Group, Canfield. “From Meridian to the county line, there’s a lot of activity.”

Sections of the Mahoning Avenue corridor near state Route 46 experience daily traffic in excess of 11,000 vehicles, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. Near Interstate 680 in Youngstown, the street’s daily vehicle count is just shy of 7,000.

Public Investment

The Youngstown stretch of Mahoning Avenue has benefited from public investments in recent years, such as construction of the $3.78 million Michael Kusalaba Branch of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, which opened in 2018.

Three years before that, in 2015, local advocates, including representatives of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and Mill Creek MetroParks and Youngstown Councilman Mike Ray, hosted Better Block.

The pop-up event was designed to showcase what the different storefronts might look like if they were operational, Nick Chretien says. Chretien is planning and regional development manager with the Western Reserve Port Authority and executive director of Economic Action Group.

Up to that point, YNDC had been focused on reclaiming residential properties that could be salvaged and demolishing those that couldn’t. But little attention was being paid to commercial sites. Then, in 2019, the port authority commissioned a study by Novogradic Consulting of the city’s major commercial corridors that included Mahoning Avenue.

“We needed to complete the study to see where our dollars would go the furthest and make sense to invest,” Chretien says.

Following that study, the port authority acquired two dilapidated buildings at 1586 and 1588 Mahoning Ave. from the city land bank – which it had helped the land bank acquire – and worked to find a developer. It eventually reached an agreement with Voyager Specialty Coffee and Teas, which relocated its manufacturing and distribution operations from Canfield into one location and also opened Trek Coffee House.

“This project specifically has opened a lot of eyes and brought a lot of people to the corridor,” Chretien says.

The port authority has acquired additional properties along Mahoning, including the former Clark Bar and Sweet Arrangements properties, and is tapping American Rescue Plan funds allocated by Youngstown to manage the projects.

The port authority entered into an agreement last year with the owners of Westside Bowl, 2617 Mahoning Ave., for the Clark Bar building.

Nate Offerdahl and his wife, Jami, acquired Westside Bowl in 2018. While in the planning stages, they consulted with the owners of Cleveland rock venue Beachland Ballroom. “[They] gave us some very, very good advice and suggestions,” Offerdahl says.

Nate Offerdahl plans to expand his business to include the old Clark Bar.

One key piece of advice was to find a place that offered streams of revenue unrelated to the music bookings. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be just a music venue. You have to have other money coming in,” Offerdahl says. He credits Jami with the idea of finding a space with a bowling alley and the Mahoning Avenue property turned out to be available.

The location – with easy access to interstates 80 and 680 – offers a huge advantage. “Probably anywhere from 12,000 to 14,000 cars roll past here on any given day. So we have access theoretically to all those folks,” Offerdahl says.  “We get bands here from all over the country and around the world and finding us when they’re putting it in their GPS and getting here is never a problem.”

Additionally, the venue’s owners enjoy good relationships with its residential and commercial neighbors, as well as with city officials, he says.

Several concepts for the Clark building space have been discussed,  Offerdahl says. Its eventual use will be complementary to Westside Bowl.


Darren Crivelli, township zoning inspector in Austintown, recently participated in a preconstruction meeting with the engineer, general contractor and site contractor for the 160,000-square-foot Meijer store that will be built on Mahoning Avenue

“They want to pour footers middle of June, late June,” Crivelli says.

He points to the arrival of Meijer as one of the factors that led principals of Washco Austintown LLC to buy the 86,000-square-foot Austintown Plaza building that had been anchored for decades by JCPenney.

“He thought that would help him lease his building,” Crivelli says of the Washco owner.

Crivelli has received signage drawings for Five Below, which is leasing part of the building. Other expected tenants include Grocery Outlet and an addiction recovery center.

Other developments include a new Tommy’s Express Car Wash near Chick-fil-A, adding to that segment’s representation on the corridor, he adds.

“I think it’s our 10th car wash,” Crivelli says.

“Nobody wants to hear about car washes. But that’s a whole segment nationally that has got a lot of traction and there’s a lot of development work with those,” Platz’s Thomas says.

The Mahoning Avenue market in Austintown isn’t quite as active as corridors in Boardman and Canfield, but it’s active, he says.

“That market has waited for Meijer to come,” Thomas says. “Once Meijer gets under construction – not just permitting but under construction – I think you’ll start to see continued growth and activity, and we see it going further west.”

Much of the recent activity is connected with repurposing and leasing, Thomas notes. When Platz took over leasing of Crestwood Center at the state Route 46-Mahoning intersection, occupancy was about 50%. It is now about 95% full.

Jim Grantz, broker associate with Edward J. Lewis Inc., reports he sold a Fitch Boulevard property last year that ties into the Meijer project. The addition of Meijer to the corridor – already home to big-box retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot – will enhance its power as a commercial corridor.

“It’s already pretty strong and [Meijer will] just add to the strength,” Grantz says.

The rate for office space on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown is about $12 per square foot, according to Grantz. The office space market experienced a shakeup after the Covid-19 pandemic hit. While he was able to fill vacancies at 5423 Mahoning because the spaces were smaller and appealed to a broader range of tenants, that wasn’t the case with a 4,500-square-foot space at 5121 Mahoning.

“That’s a bit large for our market, and it took a while to find a company that could take that over,” Grantz says. Fortunately, an insurance company with an office in Columbus wanted to open a branch locally to tap into the available labor market.

Commercial space is going for $18 per square foot, Grantz reports.

Among the Mahoning Avenue properties that Grantz is concentrating on is a specialty plaza at 4774 Mahoning, across from the Austintown Marc’s that is tenanted by Subway, Cricket and Little Caesars. He is working to fill two vacancies created by the departure of two service-oriented businesses that had been there.

North Jackson

There is a real need for flex space – “offices with warehouses,” Thomas says. “There’s a real need for warehouse space out [in North Jackson], just because of the overflow of what’s going on in Lordstown and North Jackson. And I would anticipate, depending on build cost, because there’s nothing out there, it’s probably $10 to $12, maybe $14 a foot for those.”

The North Jackson area of Mahoning Avenue is dominated by industrial and distribution users, including the expanded Macy’s distribution and fulfillment center and Extrudex Corp.

Among the more recent developments was the groundbreaking last fall for the North Jackson Commerce Park, which is being developed just west of the intersection at North Bailey Road to meet growing demand for modern industrial space.

The corridor in the Bailey Road area is “really active,” Thomas says.

“The Leonard family owns a fair amount of land out there,” he continues. “They’re good at what they do from a landowner perspective. So I think you’ll see some additional activity out there.” He further predicts activity in the corridor will be fed by the various developments in Lordstown.

In North Jackson, Lewis’s listings include a large commercial property where Mahoning intersects Bailey Road, listed at $700,000.

“It’s an interesting one, because it’s right off the highway, so commercial seems like a logical use. But quite often we get people inquiring that are considering industrial uses, and that would require a zone change,” Grantz says.

Pictured at top: Nick Chretien looks for more activity in the Youngstown stretch of Mahoning.