Warren CIC Awaits RG Steel Building's Tax Status

CIC Explores Options for RG Steel Building

WARREN, Ohio – The Community Improvement Corporation of Warren and Trumbull County will explore its options for the former RG Steel building over the next six months. Among them: a direct sale of the property, listing it for auction and partnering with the Western Reserve Port Authority.

The intent is to act by October to remove the property from the CIC’s books, CIC staff and its board of directors said Tuesday when they discussed the disposition of property.

Earlier this year, the CIC took possession of the building on Pine Avenue, where they met yesterday. It has controlled the building the past three months under an agreement with the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, which accepted it from its former owner, BDM Steel Holdings, to allow BDM to claim a tax credit for its donation.

“We need to try to dispose of the building by October,” said Tom Humphries, manager of the CIC and former president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. The regional chamber administers and staffs the CIC under contract.

Should the property not be disposed of by October, the CIC would explore “other options,” as Humphries described them. Among them are putting the building up for auction or entering into an agreement with the port authority, which could assume management and leasing of the property, with the two organizations that share revenue from leases.

The port authority recently presented the CIC with what was characterized as a skeleton outline or suggestion during the discussion. “There’s substance we could discuss at some later point,” Humphries said.

Anthony Trevena, director of the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, the economic development division of the port authority, said afterward in a phone interview that the port authority’s proposal to the CIC was “generic.

“All we’ve ever done is offer to be helpful,” Trevena said. “We’d love to be helpful if we can and help make that a productive asset.”

The port authority is working with the city to market selected properties, Mike Keys, community development director, said. Keys sits on the CIC board.

In any sale, the CIC needs to recoup what it’s spent to maintain and operate the building, Paul O’Hara, board chairman, said.

The CIC management’s objective “is to make sure the CIC is made whole,” Humphries said. “Everything else is optional.”

In addition, Warren wants to ensure that any use is acceptable to the city, Keys said. Warren is willing to sell the property at a lower price, depending on how many jobs the end user would create.

“The purpose of holding this building is for economic development, not to have somebody take it to scrap,” he said. He suggested the CIC could solicit proposals from entities other than the port authority.

Putting restrictions on how the property can be used “makes all the sense in the world,” said Chuck Joseph, a CIC board member and broker with Routh-Hurlbert Real Estate.

“We don’t want this thing to be torn down because it’s a fine building,” Joseph stated. “It’s just a matter of finding the right use.”

In other business related to the building, Angela Neely, chief financial officer of the chamber and a member of the CIC management team, reported she is still waiting word on the CIC’s application for tax-exempt status for the building.

According to Neely, the state employee responsible for making the determination has issued his opinion for the tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017 as well as for this year, but his supervisor has yet to sign off, preventing its release. She was told to check back in a couple of weeks, she reported.

“I don’t know what the opinion is,” she added. If the state turns down the tax exemption, the CIC would be responsible for about $100,000 covering the prior tax years, plus this year’s taxes.

TBEIC is removing property from the building. It has through Friday to remove what it wants after the board approved a one-day extension of its earlier deadline of Thursday.

Pictured at top: Former RG Steel building on Pine Avenue in Warren.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.