Development Projects Advance in East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — Two economic development projects are in the works here, with action taken this week to advance the projects planned for downtown and in East End.

The city’s Planning Commission met Monday to act on a zoning classification change requested by 1st Point Inc., Homestead Boulevard, for property at 1000 Pennsylvania Ave. in the East End of the city. Owners George Kanj and Josee Daniel applied to have the existing B-1 and R-3 classification changed and consolidated to B-4, highway business, to prepare for commercial development.

Kanj and Daniel were not present for the meeting to outline their plans for the property, and Planning Director Kayla Crowl told the commission she has “no concrete plans” at this time for the large parcel.

This concerned Ohio Avenue resident Linda Ziegler, who reminded the commission the purpose of zoning regulations is to protect existing landowners and that, “once you’ve made a zoning change, you’re not able to go back.” Ziegler said she has seen more than one case in which a zoning change request was granted and the resulting use of the property was not what had been proposed to the commission in order to effect the zoning change.

“I think this is a mistake until you get firm plans on what they plan to do and make (the zoning change) contingent upon that,” Ziegler said. “I’m asking you to be cautious and not vote until you have firm plans.”

The owners have had the property surveyed and have obtained tear-down permits for a transmission shop which had sat there as well as for a house also slated for demolition, Crowl said.

Commission member Deb Fickes pointed out the owners also own JP’s Pizzeria in Calcutta and the Marathon gas station on St. Clair Avenue, noting, “The properties he does have are thriving businesses.”

From the audience, Councilman Craig Stowers agreed, also saying, “Whatever is going there has to be an improvement.”

With a unanimous vote, the commission agreed to send its recommendation to city council for approval of the zoning change.

On Tuesday, the city’s Community Improvement Corporation dealt with the same project, agreeing to purchase three vacant lots from the Columbiana County Land Bank so they can be incorporated into the development.

CIC President Patrick Scafide explained, to help the project move forward, the CIC would pay a maximum of $2,200 per lot, which would release the mortgages the Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank) has on them, after which the CIC would be reimbursed by Kanj and Daniel.

“We’re just acting as the transfer person to facilitate the project,” Scafide said.

“That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?” responded Councilman Ray Perorazio.

The CIC’s property and finance committees each agreed to the purchase at previous meetings, authorizing up to $6,600 to be appropriated for the purchase.

Aimed at renovating a historic building in Devon’s Diamond downtown, the CIC also voted Tuesday to commit $50,000 and submit a letter of support with an application for a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant. Scafide said Mayor Greg Bricker had asked if the CIC would consider not only the letter of support but the $50,000, although the CDBG does not require any matching funds.

“The grant doesn’t require a match, but it makes our application more attractive to show the building owner is willing to put up a match,” Bricker told the group.

The CIC had acquired ownership of the Thompson building a year ago from the Land Bank to promote it as an economic development project while saving the architectural icon. The four-story building was constructed in the 1880s and serves as the cornerstone of the Diamond Historic District.

A grant is being considered to help restore the historic Thompson building on Devon’s Diamond in East Liverpool as part of a city-wide urban renewal initiative that’s generated more than $17 million in investment for the past six years.

In the proposed letter of support, Scafide wrote that the CIC, in partnership with the city, has been involved the past six years in the city’s downtown urban renewal initiative, with more than $17 million of new investment seen over those six years. The grant would be used to preserve and rehabilitate the building’s decorative brick facade, corner turret, colored glass windows and other decorative aspects.

While Scafide said the $350,000 grant and $50,000 committed by the CIC may not be enough to completely renovate the building, having that much done could entice a buyer to spend an additional $50,000 to complete the renovation.

Bricker said the pre-application can be made in July, after which the actual application will be received.

Again, the finance and property committees approved the letter and financial commitment prior to the board’s approval.

Also with economic development on their minds, members approved a motion to accept three vacant lots on St. Clair Avenue in the downtown from the Land Bank for a total of $1,035, which is essentially the processing fee. The lots are located behind what was once Yanni’s Restaurant and are being acquired for future development, according to Scafide.

Members were not as quick to accept an offer by the owner of property at 606 Dresden Ave., the former 606 Bar, who is willing to turn over the land and building in exchange for the CIC paying for a title search and a “couple of hundred bucks,” Scafide reported.

Bricker said plans include turning that area into a green space, but at issue is funding to raze the building, which he said is a safety concern.

A local contractor has estimated the cost of demolition could be between $40,000 and $60,000, Scafide said. Another entity is interested in the land underneath, but he added, “They should be responsible for tearing it down. I don’t want to get stuck with a white elephant.”

The matter was tabled until further discussion can be held with the owner. Crowl reported the USDA has notified her that the remaining $19,000 of $99,000 in federal funds granted the city several years ago for business development must be used or be returned. The CIC had loaned $80,000 of the funding to the owner of Nikki’s Market about two years ago, with the remainder still available.

Scafide urged anyone who needs funding for startup, expansion or renovation of a city business to contact the CIC about applying.

Lastly, a new fund was created, “The Potters Progress Fund,” into which proceeds can be placed for demolition and beautification projects. Thus far, both East Liverpool City Hospital and Heritage Thermal Services have donated $2,500 toward demolition.

Pictured at top: Downtown East Liverpool. Image: NPR.

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