Journal Opinion: And the Beat Goes On

YOUNGSTOWN – In downtown Youngstown and Warren, entrepreneurs ranging from established developers to a new generation that reflects age, gender and ethnic diversity are making investments in long-vacated properties and encouraging investment by other entrepreneurs.  

Even amid restrictions in place because of the pandemic, entrepreneur Derrick McDowell began to host events at the former Northeast Fabricators industrial building, just east of Youngstown’s central business district.

McDowell’s Youngstown Flea LLC bought the building at 368 E. Boardman St. last fall, providing a year-round venue for his “market for makers” that he previously held in a parking lot near the Covelli Centre. He wants to explore offering space for longer terms to generate daily activity, following the model of the West Side Market in Cleveland.

Joining McDowell in the neighborhood is Penguin City Brewing Co., which purchased the former Republic Building Supply warehouse at 460 E. Federal St. Penguin City is relocating its brewing operations and making plans to open a taproom/restaurant and event center, and lease other space.

“We have been working nonstop since August of 2018 looking for our forever home, and we knew Penguin City had to be in the heart of the city,” says co-owner Aspasia Lyras-Bernacki.

Penguin City is renovating the warehouse to complete the first phase of a $3.7 million overhaul of the property by this summer. Already the company has attracted its first tenant. Entrepreneur Hannah Ferguson plans to open a cider house and winery and lease space next to the warehouse for a production facility and tasting room. It would be the first cider house in Youngstown, and Ferguson would become the first Black woman to own and operate a cider house in Ohio.  

In downtown Warren, the beat goes on as developer Mark Marvin prepares to take on rehabilitating the former Mickey’s Army-Navy Store. Among other buildings, Marvin’s Downtown Development Group has renovated and reopened the Robins Theatre and the former Warren Scope senior center, which now operates as a riverfront wine bar.

Marvin says he is working with tenants of the Mickey’s building and looking at options for the vacant space, including the possibility of a grocery store to serve the growing residential population downtown.

“It needs a lot of work,” he says of the structure.

While the purchase agreement was being prepared, he entered into a lease with the owner of the property, the Western Reserve Port Authority, that allowed his company to begin stabilizing the building and prevent further deterioration.  

It’s always exciting to see new development take place. But it’s especially gratifying when entrepreneurs make investments in our core cities and repurpose existing properties. This is the kind of momentum essential to community revitalization.

We trust there’s more to come.