YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Commercial real estate agents in the Mahoning Valley say they’re busier than they’ve been in years, and momentum in new markets is driven in part by development in Voltage Valley.
The market is “across-the-board hot” with industrial, office space and mini strip plazas also drawing lots of attention from investors, says Dan Crouse of Platz Realty. Last year, business was up 30% to 40%, which he attributes to the year being back-loaded. But 2022 has started out ahead of last year, he notes.
“If it continues like this, I’ll outdo last year easily,” Crouse says. “There’s more business and more interest in this area than I think any of us ever thought would happen.”
He attributes that to investors looking to “get cash in their hands in case something bad happens,” Crouse says, or to get their money into hard assets. “We’re lucky enough to be on both ends of that.”
Currently, 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot flex space “is still king” in the area and is usually gone when it comes on the market, according to Crouse.
“Any 3,000- to 5,000-foot flex space that is worth a damn is gone. You can’t build it or convert it fast enough,” he says. “Think about it. That’s the small business that is taking its first step out of somebody’s garage or out of somebody’s basement. And that’s always a good sign.”
The city of Warren has been particularly busy, Crouse continues, and not all of it is on Courthouse Square. He has a strip plaza there for sale and recently closed a deal with Color 3 Embroidery Inc., which moved from its former location on Chestnut Avenue to Mahoning Avenue, quadrupling its space.
“It’s all center city. It’s moving,” he says. “It’s within maybe five blocks of the courthouse.”
One corridor that’s been surprisingly busy is Meridian Road, says Jim Grantz, agent with Edward J. Lewis Inc., Youngstown.
In less than a year, the Lewis agency has sold and leased a number of properties in that area, all of which related to industry. Most of the companies are local expansions, or companies from other parts of Ohio that wanted locations in the Mahoning Valley, Grantz says.
Among the projects are the expansion building for Grace Services Inc., a 62,000-square-foot expansion for Modern Builders Supply Inc., and spaces for companies based in Cleveland and Akron.
The Lewis agency also secured 13,000 square feet of space off Meridian Road for I-Master Corp., and another 48,000 square feet on Connecticut Avenue in a nearby cul-de-sac, he says.
The Korean-based I-Master will be working closely with the Ultium Cells LLC electric-vehicle battery plant in Lordstown, he says.
“The whole reason I-Master came here is because of the battery plant and the fact that they’re going to send some components into the plant for production,” Grantz says. “They wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that.”
Access to highways and their customer base draws companies to Meridian Road, he says. There isn’t much industrial space available, he says, and what is available “goes rather quickly.”
North Jackson has been hot for some time, he says. Grantz closed four deals in about a year there, including the sale of 15 acres of property that wraps around the Dunkin Donuts at the intersection of Mahoning Avenue and Bailey Road. Another 25 acres for sale on the northwest corner of the intersection is drawing interest
“As soon as I put it on a couple of minor marketing pages that I use on the internet, I started getting phone calls,” he says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s under contract shortly.”
Grantz also sold the property where Quality Metals Inc. is being constructed inside Youngstown Commerce Park, as well as the buildings on either side of the site: one to a trucking company and the other to a construction company.
“They both spent a significant amount of money rehabbing buildings that were built in the ’90s,” he says. “That whole cul-de-sac there is basically new between the new construction building and the two that have been updated.”
Grantz agrees that areas like Austintown and Mineral Ridge are poised for more growth because of industrial activity in Lordstown.
“From an industrial standpoint, there’s synergy where more makes more,” he says. “I see the activity that’s generated by the projects in Lordstown as requiring goods and services, such as restaurants, hotel rooms [and] places for folks to live.”
Urban residential properties are popular, particularly rental properties, as investors look to capitalize on the influx of renters coming to work on the Ultium Cells LLC project, says Platz’s Crouse.
A building he recently sold at 112-118 E. Market St. in Warren has one apartment in the upper floors, “and there’s potential for more,” he says.
“And the buyer has looked at this, knowing a lot of the people moving in for [Ultium] or Foxconn are typically urban people,” he says. “They’re Taiwanese or Koreans who are generally urban people where they’re used to living in an urban setting. And so their hope is to get these apartments ready for these people to move into as they come into Warren.”
Vince Hillard hasn’t seen much in the way of office leasing, but multi-family residential properties are going strong. Hillard covers western Pennsylvania and Boardman for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Stouffer Realty, and says he’s busier in the Buckeye State.
Between a shortage of single-family houses driving up costs and rental rates going up due to more people renting, multifamily properties in the Mahoning Valley are seeing increased interest, he says. Hillard has four six-plexes under contract off West Boulevard in Boardman, and another on Wolosyn Circle in Poland.
“I had 50 agents call me on my listing,” Hillard says. “That market is very hot. The multifamily buildings are crazy right now.”
The cost to build new is also driving interest in existing properties, he adds. With the high cost of construction materials, building a new six-plex would cost at least $500,000, he says.
Pictured: Edward J. Lewis Inc. secured this building off Meridian Road in Austintown for I-Master Corp., an industrial automation company based in South Korea that is working closely with Ultium Cells LLC.