ELO Native, Former Banker Lewis Eyes Motor Lodge for ‘Town Center’

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — Three upcoming meetings by city boards could determine the fate of four economic development proposals for the city, including sale of the former East Liverpool Motor Lodge and Hall China Company properties.

First up, Tuesday at 5:15 p.m., is a meeting of the city’s Community Improvement Corporation property committee where members will consider an offer to purchase the former Motor Lodge. This meeting will be immediately followed by the full board meeting, which will consider any recommendations made by the committee.

City native Steven R. Lewis, president of MVC Advisors LLC based in Warren, has proposed purchasing the property for $150,000 with plans of converting it to a “mixed use” facility he refers to as River Town Center. 
In his Jan. 18 proposal letter to Mayor Greg Bricker, Lewis wrote, “I believe this will be a project that we will all be proud of when complete.” 

Lewis stated there would be no financing contingency associated with the purchase but that he hopes for support from both the city and CIC if his company seeks funding to assist in redevelopment costs.

Lewis, a 1976 East Liverpool High School graduate, is the former CEO of the former First Place Bank. 
MVC Advisors, incorporated in 2013, lists a number of successful projects in its dossier, including several apartment buildings.

Contacted Friday, Lewis declined comment on the exact plans for the Dresden Avenue property, calling it a “little premature” to discuss his plans before any decision is made by the CIC board. 

The complex was built in 1982 by the Alsan Corp. and boasted a motel, restaurant, skylight banquet room, health club and indoor pool on just under nine acres. 

It went into foreclosure in 2014 and sat empty until purchased in 2016 by Eli Gunzburg with plans of transforming it into an assisted living facility. He invested considerable funds into the structure but in December 2020, gifted the property to the CIC, saying his plans had changed.

At that time, the CIC paid local contracting company Veterans Energy Group to secure the building and install concrete barriers to ward off trespassers. In December, however,police reported someone had gained entrance and damaged the building, removing copper plumbing. 

In discussing plans for the property Friday, Lewis pointed out the building “needs work.”  

The CIC had received an offer in August 2021 from TRK Properties to purchase the land and building for $500,000, but that never came to fruition.

Dresden Avenue Building

Also at the CIC meetings Jan. 25, members will be considering an offer by Richard L. Medcalf to accept, at no cost, his building at 606 Dresden Ave., best known for once housing the 606 Bar but now sits empty.

Planning Director Bill Cowan said plans call for razing the building if the CIC takes ownership. The board agenda calls for members to discuss an agreement granting access to that structure, as well as the former East Junior High School and a house at 433 Prospect St. acquired through the Land Bank program, to conduct assessments prior to demolition.

606 Dresden Ave. in East Liverpool has long stood vacant.

The agenda also includes discussion on the sale of properties at 744 Sophia St. and 847 Baxter St., both by adjacent land owners. 

Landlord Jeremy Shaw has offered $1,100 to purchase the Sophia Street land next to a rental home he owns; retiree Kevin Francis said he “doesn’t have a lot of money, but will give you what I can” for the Baxter Street property, where he hopes to put in a large garden for his family and neighbors. 

Former Hall China Property

Set for 7 p.m. Feb. 10 is a meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals, reconvened from a Jan. 13 public hearing, regarding a special exception requested by HLC Holdings for the former Hall China Company on Anna Street. 
The company wants approval to operate a “junk storage and sales (salvage operation)” on the property, which is zoned M-3, general industrial. 

Six Recycling, which operates a recycling/salvage business on Maple Street, plans to purchase the property and relocate its operations there. During a Jan. 13 public hearing, several people stepped to the podium to voice opposition to the plans, with no one vocalizing support.

The zoning appeals board tabled the matter until additional information could be obtained, and it had 30 days in which to readdress the issue.

Cowan said property owners within 200 feet of the proposed zoning change have again been notified but said a second public hearing is not required at this point. Instead, the board can opt to accept comment from those in attendance or not before making a decision to vote on the request.

Addiction Treatment Center Proposed

Lastly, a public hearing has been set for the city Planning Commission at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 22 to address a zoning change classification from “R-3, Residential” to “B-3, Institutions and Offices” for property at 231 W. 7th St. The change was requested by property owner Twenty-Six 3 Properties Inc.

The existing building had been used as a medical office allowed by a previous rezoning approval. But since the medical office ceased operations about five years ago, the zoning classification reverted to residential.

Pinnacle Treatment Centers, based in New Jersey, is eyeing the office building as a drug and rehab treatment facility, according to Daniel J. Dowiak, vice president of real estate services for the company. 

Dowiak said plans call for an out-patient clinic and said renovations will be completed at the building to accommodate counseling group rooms and to upgrade restrooms.
If the zoning change is approved, Dowiak anticipates 45 days to complete construction planning, followed by renovations and state licensing. He expects the clinic can be opened by the end of the year. 

Although he did not have an exact number the business might employ, Dowiak said the roster will include certified counselors and nurses.

There is a “considerable need” for this type of facility for “folks coming out of addiction,” he said.

Pinnacle Treatment Centers has four projects underway in Ohio, where 19 company facilities already exist, as well as 180 others in eight states. 

“We get very involved in the communities where we’re located,” Dowiak said. 

The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to City Council, which makes the final decision regarding the zoning reclassification.

All meetings will be held in council chambers at City Hall and are open to the public.

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