Councilmen Introduce Legislation for New Assessment of Realty Tower

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Two members of City Council are seeking to hire a Cincinnati structural engineering firm to perform an additional assessment of the Realty Tower to determine if it can be preserved or at least stabilized to allow the building’s tenants to reclaim their belongings before a potential demolition.

Councilmen Julius Oliver, 1st Ward, and Mike Ray, 4th Ward, each introduced late legislation to be considered at tonight’s meeting of City Council that would transfer to each of their ward’s respective discretionary funds to pay Structural Systems Repair Group for a site inspection visit and recommendation related to stabilizing Realty Tower.

Oliver, whose ward includes the downtown building, is allocating $3,900 from his ward’s discretionary fund, and Ray is allocating another $1,000. 

“Basically, this is my attempt to be able to give us some type of options,” Oliver said.

The councilmen “wanted to make sure all options were explored,” Ray affirmed. After his colleague shared his intentions, he agreed additional options should be explored as part of the process.

“Can it be stabilized for folks to return? Can it be stabilized so International Towers’ tenants could go back to their homes? Is it going to be stabilized so the hotel can function?” Ray said. If this firm’s specialty is exploring these and other questions and can shed light on those issues so better decisions can be made, then the city should explore that.”

The downtown building has been vacated since a May 28 natural gas explosion that wiped out the ground floor, which was occupied by Chase Bank, and caused damage throughout the building. The building’s residential tenants have been unable to access the buildings.

Following a structural assessment last week by a structural engineer retained by the city, it was announced that the building’s owners decided to demolish the structure.

Oliver said it seemed that much of the feedback that was given to the owner of the building, YO Properties 47, was provided by companies oriented toward demolition, and most of the stabilization being discussed was about stabilizing it to demolish it. Wanting to find a firm that has “a history of restoring historic buildings after disasters,” he initially reached out to a company that felt it was “a little bit out of their scope” but subsequently referred him to SSRG.

“They basically say that this building appears to be overbuilt because that’s the way they were building things back in the ’20s,” Oliver said. The firm’s representatives said they “wanted to take a look at it” and “were pretty confident that they would be able to re-secure” the structure for people to go in and get their belongings, to potentially save the structure or for demolition purposes.

Representatives of the firm were at the site around 1 p.m.

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