East Liverpool CIC Makes Former Riverview Site Available for Development

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – More than 60 acres of prime land inside city limits is again available for development after the Community Improvement Corporation decided last week not to extend an expired purchase agreement for the property.

City Planning Director Bill Cowan, also CIC executive director, said Friday the property committee met to consider a sales agreement approved in early 2022 with Georgia developer John Woomer for purchase of the property for $500,000.

According to Cowan, the agreement expired Dec. 30 without Woomer producing payment for the property, which has been abandoned for at least a decade. 

Once the site of the Riverview Florist company with greenhouses, floral showroom and offices, the property had been purchased by the city for about $1.3 million and annexed from Liverpool Township with the intention of marketing it for development. 

The sale was finalized with a $445,000 loan from the CIC secured from a local bank as well as $95,000 from CIC accounts, after which the city used mineral rights revenue and $1 million from the water department to pay for the property and repay the loan to the CIC. 

The $1 million was repaid to the city from the water department for a water line project the city had funded, which the water department was able to pay with more than $6 million it was awarded in a breach of contract lawsuit against the Buckeye Water District. 

Ultimately, the property was transferred by City Council to the nonprofit CIC to market for development.

There have been several purchase agreements drawn up between Woomer and the CIC over the past several years, with offers made between $300,000 and the most recent $500,000, but none of the agreements ever came to fruition.

Cowan said although correspondence was received from Woomer indicating he was ready to finalize the latest sales agreement by Dec. 28 prior to expiration, that also failed to take place. Then a request was received to extend the purchase agreement until April.

Although the property committee took no action recommending the full board address the expired agreement, at the full board meeting that followed, member Al Fricano moved to approve an extension until March, which was voted down by members, according to Cowan.

Fricano has been a proponent of the sale to Woomer, having said the developer has “major companies wanting to come in here” that, he said, had the potential of generating annual revenue of $300,000. However, no actual plans for the property have been provided by Woomer to the CIC.

With lack of support for the extension, Cowan said steps will be taken to develop or sell the property, which he said offers 60-plus buildable, flat acres in a city of hills. Additional acreage exists at the site but is not as flat.

First on the list will be approaching the city planning commission to request a change in the Planned Unit Development zoning designation of the property.

Cowan explained that a PUD generally opens up property for a wide range of uses. But when City Council approved the designation for the Riverview property, it included a restriction against any residential use.

“We’ve had no other interest” in the property, Cowan said. Opening it up for possible residential use may be the answer to its development.

The planning commission would have to make such a recommendation to City Council, which would then also have to approve the change reintroducing residential use in the PUD.

Once those steps are complete, the CIC will begin actively working through its committees to begin marketing the property, Cowan said. 

In matters at the CIC meeting, the board approved a second facade improvement grant of $12,500 for David Bickerton, who is renovating a building at 514 Market St. for a restaurant. 

Cowan said this grant will go toward replacing the upstairs windows in the building. The facade program allows for two grants per building, he said.

The Thompson building on Market Street in East Liverpool.

Cowan reported after the meeting that the CIC has been offered up to $600,000 in JobsOhio Vibrant Community Grant funding for the $2.17 million estimated cost of renovating the historic Thompson building at 522 Market St. downtown.

In the letter announcing the offer, Terrence Slaybaugh, vice president of infrastructure, advised Cowan that JobsOhio is pleased to offer the assistance to the CIC for redeveloping the site “with the intent to fulfill a market need and serve as a catalyst for future investments in the community.”

According to project assumptions in the letter, the total cost includes $1.35 million in building costs; $85,000 in site preparation costs; and $744,500 in other costs.

Plans outlined in the assumptions call for the CIC to complete full renovations to the 11,050-square-foot building, with the anchor tenant, True North, occupying not less than 3,570 square feet of that space. 

Through existing and prospective tenants, the CIC expects to commit to the creation of 50 jobs and annual payroll of no less than $2.3 million, the letter continued. 

Site development by the CIC will be completed by Dec. 31, 2024, according to the JobsOhio missive, which noted its offer is contingent upon the receipt of federal and state historical tax credits and proof of a finalized capital stack no later than July 31.

According to CIC President Pat Scafide, an application for federal tax credits last year for the project was denied, but the city intends to seek state and federal credits this year.

“We’re in there fighting. If we get this done, people will be so proud,” Scafide said of the renovation project.

Pictured at top: The East Liverpool Community Improvement Corporation hopes to begin actively marketing the former Riverview Florist property on Parkway.

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