Developers from Across Country Tour 20 Federal Place

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With about a month to go until proposals for redeveloping 20 Federal Place are due, the city of Youngstown hosted tours of the building Monday, drawing developers from the Mahoning Valley and far beyond.

In all, about 30 people spent three hours walking through the 95-year-old former department store. Nine development firms from across the country were on the tour, according to Doug Rasmussen, president of consulting firm Steadfast City, which is working with the city on the project.

“Some of the development teams brought some of their people that we weren’t expecting,” Rasmussen said following the tour. “For us, that shows there’s a serious level of interest as they walk through the building and do their due diligence.”

Local developers like Mark Marvin of Downtown Development Group and Brian Angelilli of The Greenheart Companies joined others from Cleveland and as far as New York City, Rasmussen said, along with a handful of people “who weren’t part of a development team but were still interested in the building.”

The city previously hosted a tour of the building for developers April 16, though Monday’s group was far larger, according to Nikki Posterli, the city’s director of community planning and economic development.

The city’s RFP was issued April 1, with a deadline of June 1, giving developers who toured the building about a month to finalize their ideas. After that, a group led by the city and Steadfast Group will review proposals before selecting a developer to advance what the city envisions as a $34 million project.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” Posterli said. “This is the perfect time to reimagine and re-envision a lot of the things that are going on. With the amphitheater, with the Covelli Centre, with the Smart2 Network, this fits right in.”

Drawing a crowd from such a large geographic area, Rasmussen said, speaks to the success of other projects in Youngstown, from the now-completed Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre to the still-in-progress Smart2 Network, whose field office in 20 Federal served as the start and end point of the tour.

“Any time someone comes from New York or St. Louis or Columbus or any of these other places, it shows you there’s a market here. There’s value here. There’s value in all the great things going on in downtown and the city of Youngstown,” Rasmussen said. “Sometimes, outside investors may be the ones that recognize that. They see the value of the university and the investments that have been made. It’s a nice statement to have groups from all over the country to take a look.”

Developers got an up-close look at six of the building’s eight levels – including the basement, though floors four and five were passed as VXI’s call centers were in use at the time – as well as some of the spaces around the building, such as the newly completed Phelps Street Gateway pedestrian area and Federal Street, which will be renovated in 2023.

The investor’s prospectus released by the city and Steadfast City highlighted the potential of the upper floors as residential spaces, noting the views of the city and large windows. 

Read the Investor’s Prospectus for 20 Federal Place HERE

Gregg Strollo, principal architect of Strollo Architects and a consultant on the 20 Federal project, noted some of the middle floors could serve as either office space – as it’s used now – or apartments and condos. Prior to renovating the Wells Building in downtown, the architectural firm called the sixth floor of 20 Federal home for nearly two decades.

“The proposal largely codes this as redevelopable as residential, suggesting that it’s the perfect poster child for how you want to use this floor. But as office space, it functions pretty well. We had no trouble here as an architectural office for many years,” he said during the tour, noting that prior to his company’s tenancy, it was used by the law firm of Flask, Policy, Weimer & White. “There’s private offices, group work spaces, lots of natural light and it’s in great shape. I’d do some LED lighting. If you have an office tenant you want to put in this building, this is the space.”

The bottom floors – the main level, mezzanine and basement – would all function well for retail, the prospectus says. In the basement, Strollo and Posterli noted plans for a bowling alley that could be used by Youngstown State University bowling team, as well as a dining area that could bring the return of Strouss’ malts, made by the original machine that was recently found in storage.

“We’ve created a vision that’s family-oriented, from young kids to seniors, who can do shopping, hang out and spend leisure time. We want to make it nostalgic, inviting and invigorating,” Posterli said. “We’re also planning on some incubation space, so anyone who wants to start a business can have some startup space available.”

Among the local contingent of developers, Marvin said he envisions using much of the building as retail storefronts.

“We have quite a few differences from what was in the proposal they put out,” he said. “We see this as a retail center that could offer a lot of space, which is necessary in downtown. Condos and residential in the upstairs is a must, too, to keep people invested in downtown. We also see a lot of office space that’s wasted, that could be reformed as retail space. As far as parking’s concerned, we have an idea that I’m not going to get into just yet, but it’d offer something we think is better.”

Marvin’s company, Downtown Development Group, has already renovated and revitalized several historic properties in his hometown of Warren, including the Robins Theatre, the Mahoning Building and what is now CharBenay’s Wine on the River, the former Warren Scope senior center. While 20 Federal is much larger than any of those buildings, he says the work itself wouldn’t be too much different, just on a bigger scale.

“We did the Mahoning Building, which is also seven stories but isn’t quite as big a footprint square footage-wise. We took that floor by floor, developing one and then moving to the next. We’d handle this the same way,” he said following the tour. “It’s just a matter of how much time it takes you to get each floor done. One might take a month, like it did in the Mahoning Building, whereas here it might be a year. You don’t know, so we’ll be taking a closer look at that.”

Pictured: Strollo Architects’ Gregg Strollo, a consultant for the city on the 20 Federal renovation project, discusses the building with developers.

Related Coverage

April 16: City Gives Developers Tours of 20 Federal Place

April 13: City Releases RFP for $34M 20 Federal Place Redevelopment

March 10: 20 Federal Re-Envisioning Aims for Best Use of Space

March 9: Proposal Unveiled to Give $34M Makeover to 20 Federal

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.