Industrial Park Project Revives Warren’s West Side

WARREN, Ohio – After decades of struggling to rejuvenate a long-neglected section of Warren, a who’s who of business and community leaders took time Aug. 15 to revel in a $9 million project that has the potential to deliver millions more in new development.

It was a moment not lost on Pastor George Johnson of the Agape Assembly Church, who established the church in the southwestern neighborhood in 2005.

“This area used to be the worst area in the city of Warren,” he said. “The crime, the dope, everything.”

The year he moved in, Johnson said God showed him a vision that the neighborhood would one day turn around. “I thank God he let me live long enough – 18 years – that it’s come to pass.”

Approximately 150 guests – including Gov. Mike DeWine – attended a groundbreaking to launch the West Warren Industrial Park project. Its first structure will be a 98,200-square-foot “spec” building designed to fit the needs of modern manufacturers and distributors.

Gov. Mike DeWine, center,  joined members of the Warren school board, city officials, business leaders and U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (far right) for the groundbreaking.

Construction should begin in spring 2024, said Mike Martof, a principal in Sapientia Ventures LLC, the venture capital group spearheading the project. The plan is to have a tenant in the building by early 2025.

Driving the project is the need to develop Class A industrial space to address expansions of existing businesses and to attract new ones to the region, Martof said.

Sapientia Ventures is a partnership among Martof, businessman Charles “Chuck” George and Wiley Runnestrand.

“We believe this marks the beginning of the redevelopment of the West Side,” George said. “This site is a greenfield in an inner city. We have the roads. We have the water. We have the sewer. We have the electricity.”

The spec building is the first of several planned for the site. Ultimately, the goal is to develop one million square feet of modern industrial space.

The 86-acre site once served as housing for workers at the Ravenna Arsenal during World War II and later for industrial workers. To the west was the site of Warren Western Reserve High School. All of those structures have since been razed, clearing the way for potential new development.

Mayor Doug Franklin said this project is the largest investment in this neighborhood since Warren Western Reserve was built during the late 1960s. “This is a significant investment in an area where the majority of the properties have been vacant for over 30 years,” he said.

Not only will the industrial park create jobs and needed tax revenue for the city and school system, but it will also boost property values, improve infrastructure and stabilize the southwestern side of Warren.

“This was a huge undertaking,” the mayor said, citing the cooperation with Warren City Schools, the Western Reserve Port Authority and the private sector. He said the site included more than 120 separate parcels that required title searches, appraisals and a host of other administrative tasks.

“This is a great example of the benefits of working together,” Franklin said.

Pictured at top: This rendering by MS Consultants shows how the first building, a 98,200-square-foot structure, will look. The project represents a $9 million investment in Warren.