Gallagher Building’s Revival Reflects Downtown’s New Era

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The exposed brick on the south side of 23 N. Hazel St. harks back to a period long ago when businesses prominently displayed their names and wares by painting them on the outside of their downtown buildings.

Although faded with age, the name is clearly visible near the top of the four-story downtown landmark: “Gallagher’s Wholesale Liquor Store.” 

The building at the corner of N. Hazel and Commerce Street dates to 1904, constructed during the city’s commercial and mercantile boom of the early 20th century. Irish immigrant John Gallagher, who in 1864 arrived in Youngstown from County Donegal, had by then established a thriving business in the wholesale liquor trade and built one of the largest liquor warehouse and distribution hubs in northeastern Ohio.

His new building was designed by the city’s most sought-after architectural firm of the era, Owsley & Boucherle.

That building is thriving once again 119 years later.  Developer Brian Angelilli, principal of GreenHeart Companies LLC, has spearheaded the effort to repurpose the site into 41 studio-style apartments as downtown Youngstown undergoes a new series of changes.

“It’s taken us longer than expected,” Angelilli said Friday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of most of the renovations. “The third and fourth floors are finished, and the second floor is about a week or two out.”

The Gallagher Building in downtown Youngstown is being repurposed into 41 studio-style apartments.

Some tenants are expected to start moving in beginning sometime this month, he said.

The ground floor, he said, will include five additional efficiency apartments and a new sports-themed restaurant with a sprawling outdoor patio and bar. “It will encompass the courtyard. We’re working with several people.”

The Gallagher Building is among the oldest still standing in downtown Youngstown. Its namesake emerged as a prominent member of the region’s Irish-American community and was present to greet Irish rebel leader Eamon de Valera on his visit to Youngstown in 1919 as he solicited support for Irish independence from Great Britain.

Gallagher’s business, however, could not survive the political winds and social changes that consumed the country in the aftermath of World War I. On Jan. 1, 1920, the 18th Amendment took effect, making it illegal to manufacture, sell, distribute or transport alcohol. 

(Image courtesy of Mahoning Valley Historical Society)

Gallagher died on Jan. 6., 1924, a wealthy man.

The building would assume other uses during the mid-20th century.

According to a nomination submission to award the building National Register of Historic Places designation by architectural historian Rebecca Rogers, the Strouss-Hirshberg Co. used part of the building for warehouse space until 1926. Afterward, a barber and beautician supply company occupied the building until 1977. Its storefronts facing Hazel Street witnessed intermittent periods of vacancies through the years.

In 1977, Saada Simon purchased the Gallagher and established Cedar’s Lounge on the ground floor. The Cedar’s would emerge as a thriving nightspot that attracted some of the region’s most innovative rock bands.

Simon sold the building in 2013, closing the Cedar’s downtown location. Two subsequent attempts to revive the building never came to fruition, and a group headed by Angelilli, YO Properties LLC, purchased the building in January 2019 to redevelop the vacant building.

“Demand is good; demand is steady,” Angelilli said. “We thought that this was the type of project that was needed for downtown.”

The Gallagher building was constructed during the city’s commercial and mercantile boom of the early 20th century. (Mahoning Valley Historical Society)

The COVID-19 pandemic led to some delays, but the developer was able to get the project back on track. In all, Angelilli said the renovation cost more than $4 million.

He said there’s a particular void in the market for efficiency space. Most of the downtown rental apartments that were developed over the past decade are larger units. “This is good living for people who work downtown and people who want to live in this downtown environment.”

The efficiency units start at $900 per month, Angelilli said, which includes all utilities and washer and dryer. It does not include furnishings.

Three of the 41 apartments are two-bedroom units, 20 are studio units and the remainder are one-bedroom apartments. Six of the units are reserved for Airbnb.

Angelilli said he’s working with potential tenants to convert the ground floor into a Youngstown State University-themed Varsity Club tavern and restaurant with an outdoor patio facing Commerce Street.

Brian’s brother, John Angelilli, property manager, said that the apartments are not targeted for undergraduate student housing. Instead, the company wants to attract professionals and perhaps graduate students. 

He said he has six tenants already prepared to move in over the next several months.

Attending Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony are, from left, Bill Brown, site supervisor; Carole Meyers, interior designer; Brian Angelilli, principal of GreenHeart Companies LLC; and John Angelilli, property manager.

An adjacent parking lot is under lease, so all tenants will have on-site parking, John Angelilli said.

“The patio is going to be spectacular,” he said.  However, the venue is slated to close at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.  “We’re going to work closely with YSU and their sports scholarship fund.  We’re going to commit a percentage and donate back.”

Pictured at top: Developer Brian Angelilli, principal of GreenHeart Companies LLC.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.