East Liverpool Recasts Itself with Redevelopment

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — No longer is East Liverpool dying. It’s busy being reborn.

The latest sign of that rebirth is on Fifth Avenue where the Brooks Building, built in 1896 as the Foutts Building, was demolished in mid-September to make room for the Market Street Lofts.

The lofts will offer 45 apartments – 60 were planned originally, Craig Newbold says – managed by the company that will build them, the Miller-Valentine Group.

Newbold, a former state representative, is CEO and president of Newbold Technologies Inc. He sold the properties where Miller-Valentine, based in Dayton, will build the apartments.

He and Drew Cooper, another member of the board of East Liverpool Community Partnership on Revitalization, typify some of the new leadership in East Liverpool. So does the safety services director, Brian Allen, in Cooper’s 1992 graduating class at East Liverpool High School.

All left their city as young men, made their marks elsewhere but returned because of their deep affection for where they grew up. Now they’re working with other business leaders, civic groups, Mayor Ryan C. Stovall and City Council to restore the city once known for its potteries.

Another sign of rebirth is the site of the former Ogilvie’s department store, since razed and where a campus of the New Castle Schools of Trades is under construction.

And as a visitor drives the streets or walks the sidewalks, he sees buildings, especially churches, with clean facades that glisten in the sun. Residents and businesses stripped the grime that had accumulated when Crucible Steel in nearby Midland, Pa., and the potteries were the major employers until the 1980s.

At its peak, the population of East Liverpool was 36,000, Stovall says. Today it’s rebounding, somewhere between 11,000 and 11,500 although one business owner, who wouldn’t go on the record, is skeptical of that figure.

Instead of steel and potteries, the major employers are education – the city school system and East Liverpool campus of Kent State University – and health care, led by East Liverpool City Hospital, now part of Prime Healthcare.

With Royal Dutch Shell building a $4 billion cracker plant up the Ohio River in Monaca, Pa., everyone interviewed is buoyant about the outlook for their city. Because the nuclear power plant at Shippingport, Pa., sits close to the Ohio River, barges cannot be moored along that stretch west to the Ohio state line, Allen notes.

For that reason, East Liverpool is working with the Appalachian Regional Commission to secure funds so the city can build docks along its northern bank on the Ohio – and collect mooring fees from the barges that will be pushed to and from Monaca.

After graduating from East Liverpool High School, Cooper went to the Naval Academy (Class of ’96), fulfilled his commitment and earned a master’s degree at George Washington University. He returned two years ago from Florida, where he met his wife.

His father is Steve Cooper, long-time owner of the Cooper-Minor Insurance Agency on Broadway Avenue and long involved in civic affairs. The elder Cooper is one of 30 members of the East Liverpool Community Partnership for Revitalization; 13 sit on its board and meet monthly.

“This town is prime for opportunity,” Drew Cooper says, in large measure because it lies between the cracker plant in Monaca and a second cracker that most residents expect to be built in Belmont County. “We’re right between them,” Cooper says.

The community partnership is “looking to diversify our economy,” Cooper says, suggesting that East Liverpool could become “a health-care hub.” His recent conversation with the interim dean of the Kent State campus, David Dees, encourages that assumption.

“We’ve got to play off our strengths,” Cooper continues. The community partnership is “working to bring another anchor downtown” in addition to the Kent State campus on the eastern end of the downtown and the hospital on the western end.

The lure of East Liverpool to its residents who left to earn their livelihoods, if not fortunes, elsewhere is very strong, both Coopers say.

“We have a lot of people who left and want to return,” the younger Cooper says.

“All you have to do is look at the [East Liverpool High School] all-class reunion this summer,” his father says. “It’s the largest alumni group in the country. Thousands came back over the Fourth of July weekend.”

Many who left would like to come back to live, agree Newbold and Stovall, echoing the Coopers. They need someplace to live, one reason Miller-Valentine is building the Market Square Lofts. To attract those who left, more residential stock inside the city is needed.

Those who moved away return to visit, says Ray Trevelline, owner of a downtown landmark, the Hot Dog Shoppe. “I had opportunities to move but I stayed, the 78-year-old says. “I didn’t make a mistake in not moving.”

His restaurant has aspects of a museum; a case with four complete sets of china made in nearby potteries sits just to the right of the entrance.

On the wall just to left hang photos of East Liverpool men in their Army and Marine uniforms who served in Afghanistan. Against the left wall is a wood telephone booth, although the pay phone no longer works. “We had three [before cellphones] and they were always busy,” he recalls.

“Every weekend I have [former residents] stop in,” Trevelline relates, “They’re here for a funeral, for a wedding.” And the all-class reunions result in a surge of business each July. “The memories people have are good ones,” he says.

Trevelline, also a member of the community partnership, describes himself as a “cheerleader” for downtown renovation efforts, that is, involved but not that active. He also sees himself as a mentor, encouraging his employees to use time at the Hot Dog Shoppe as “a stepping stone. Young kids need stepping stones.”

After making a fortune in information technology on the West Coast, Newbold returned to give back to his hometown. His ambition was to build a private school aimed for disadvantaged children, to build dormitories for those who lived elsewhere. He bought the old YMCA, intending to convert it to dorms.

There was no tuition. “Applications were huge,” he says. Newbold’s intent was to help low-income children “with an attitude” learn the soft skills businesses require in addition to the technical skills.

The classrooms of the Newbold Institute sit empty today. “The school went well. We were going to expand across the street,” Newbold explains, “but the guy who started it didn’t get his certification.”

In acquiring properties for his school, Newbold became the largest owner of property in the downtown. And he was instrumental in creating the community partnership.

He worked to acquire all the plats needed to build a 60-apartment complex, but couldn’t acquire the space that will remain a parking lot between the two buildings.

Pictured: The Museum of Ceramics is a landmark in East Liverpool, an Ohio River town once known for its potteries.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.