East Liverpool CIC Considers Sale of Downtown Properties

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — A proposal by a local business owner to purchase several parcels of downtown property for development purposes was taken under advisement Wednesday by the Community Improvement Corporation.

Kevin Kerr, owner of the construction firm Veterans Energy Group, has offered between $14,000 and $15,000 for the purchase of lots on which the former Dan’s Bar and Pattison’s Jewelers buildings sit, as well as an empty lot, all on East Sixth Street, and an apartment building located on Potters Lane and Sly Alley.

The properties were acquired over recent months by the CIC after they went up for sheriff’s sale or otherwise became available.

While the exact amount the CIC has paid for the parcels was not immediately known during the meeting of its property committee, Executive Director Bill Cowan said it is “in the ballpark” of $15,000.

The former Pattison Jewelers (left) and Dan’s Bar, both empty many years, are among properties being looked at for purchase and development in downtown East Liverpool.

Kerr said he and his wife are planning on a couple different units and slightly changing the layout of the buildings. He said the Dan’s Bar building is structurally sound, whereas the former jewelry store is “not so much,” and needs the attention of an engineer to determine if it needs taken down and a new structure built.

Initial plans call for green space in the empty lot between the Pattison building and an empty building at the corner of Sixth and St. Clair which is not included among the CIC-owned properties.

The apartment in the alleys behind the Sixth Street parcels also needs to be assessed by an engineer, according to Kerr, who said if found to be unsound, it will be demolished. No parking areas are included in plans for the property, but Kerr said he hopes to use the municipal parking lots adjacent to the property.

Offering no specific plans for the property, Kerr said, “We don’t know yet, but it will be 100% retail.”

After the meeting, Kerr dispelled rumors that he plans to start a brewery on the site, saying, “I can tell you it’s not going to have a liquor license or a beer brewery. We have some plans we are working on for retail right now.”

During discussion about Kerr’s offer, committee member Ray Perorazio, who also serves as the city’s 1st Ward Councilman, voiced concerns about past incidents when the CIC was “burned doing this,” by relinquishing property with the anticipation of development that never happened. He pointed to the former credit union building downtown now “just sitting there” and property in East End adjacent to the car dealership where “nothing has been done and there was no return.”

“If [Kerr’s] going to do this, we need to know what’s going to be done and how soon it will be done. Something has to happen,” Perorazio said.

Kerr advised the committee he anticipates work on the project would begin three to four weeks after a sales agreement is signed, and said he expects between $350,000 and $400,000 to be invested in the project, with completion by fall of 2022. He had hoped to have it finished by the city’s All School Reunion next summer but said, “That’s not going to happen.”

In addition to his own company, Kerr expects to hire other local contractors for the project and then to hire between eight and 10 employees for the business end once complete.

Kerr’s company, Veterans Energy Group, has been instrumental in many of the demolition projects in the city as part of the Land Bank program. The company was recently hired by the CIC to clean out the Thompson Building in Devon’s Diamond to prepare it for sale or development.

President Pat Scafide said the CIC is “trying to be a conduit to entrepreneurs and developers to get stuff done downtown,” and that the property was acquired by the non-profit agency “with an eye toward economic development.”

Executive Director Cowan agreed.

“When we sell property, we want to make it beneficial to the community,” with job creation or overall improvements as a result, he said.

He offered some possible covenants to which perspective developments must adhere, including conforming to city zoning regulations, the historic district and Design Review Board requirements, state of Ohio building codes and a timeline.

Scafide said other covenants can be added as the CIC board sees fit.

The property committee voted unanimously to table Kerr’s proposal and take it under advisement, with Scafide suggesting another meeting be held next week for further discussion. A meeting of the full CIC board had been planned immediately following the committee meeting to act on Kerr’s proposal but was canceled prior to the committee session.

Also discussed was a request by Dylan Wolfe to purchase CIC-owned property at 890 Anderson Blvd., a vacant lot where a house had been demolished as part of the Land Bank program. Wolfe offered $1,200 for the property, but the exact amount the CIC has invested was not known in time for the meeting, which led to tabling the decision.

Mayor Greg Bricker estimated $6,000 was spent from the Potters Progress fund for demolition of the house and suggested the CIC could counter offer a price of between $3,000 and $5,000, noting, “We still have a lot more properties to come down.”

“It’s not as much about getting back all the money as much as just doing something in the neighborhood,” Perorazio said.

It was reported that Wolfe’s family owns an apartment building nearby and also already participates in the Land Bank mow-to-own program with another property, which committee member Tom Clark said is well maintained. The matter was tabled until more exact figures can be obtained.

Pictured at top: The East Liverpool Community Improvement Corporation is considering a purchase offer on these parcels located in the downtown, including the apartment building at left, empty lot, and two former businesses.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.