WARREN – The city of Warren is ready to take the first step toward demolishing one of its oldest and most recognized blighted properties: the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital.
On April 8, officials announced that city council will take up legislation authorizing the application for a $2.5 million asbestos abatement grant from the state. If all goes as planned, the site will be torn down and converted into a greenspace within two years.
“This is the most important piece of legislation we’ve been able to undertake since the building closed,” Mayor Doug Franklin said on the steps of City Hall.
The legislation will be taken up by city council at its meeting April 14. If approved, the final piece of paperwork for the application will be sent to the Ohio Development Services Agency.
“All the application parts that have been done are now with the state,” said Michael Keys, the city’s community development director. “The only thing left is the authorizing ordinance.”
In 2015, the Trumbull County Brownfield Coalition used grant money to fund an assessment of the site, along with the second phase of the study that was completed in February. With the assessment done, the city is ready for this newest step.
Keys said city officials expect to have “at least a draft” of the grant agreement from the state by May and to have the money before the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30. At that time, the city will engage an environmental consultant and put the abatement work out to bid. Abatement will likely begin in the fall, followed by demolition next year.
Built in 1934, the hospital complex eventually grew to encompass 12 buildings across 15 acres.
The hospital was closed in 1996 after Mercy Health – then named Humility of Mary Health Partners – acquired Warren General Hospital on Eastland Avenue. The site was sold several times in quick succession with no owners implementing proposed plans for the site. In 2015, foreclosure proceedings were initiated against the building’s owner at the time and, in 2019, the state took possession of the property. This month, Franklin said, the state transferred the property to the Trumbull County Land Bank.
Once the building is demolished, Franklin said the city has “a blank canvas to re-envision the site.” Its most likely use will be a greenspace, with potential amenities including park benches, a boat launch and ambient lighting. But, he is sure to point out, nothing is set in stone yet.
“Nothing starts without getting the building down,” Franklin said. “I want to make sure we’re listening to residents of that neighborhood, residents of the city of Warren and councilmembers when we’re getting input on the long-term plans.”
Since most of the surrounding neighborhood is residential, it’s unlikely there will be any commercial development at the site. There has been interest, however, in developing new housing.
Pictured: The former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital has sat empty since closing in 1996.