Economic Development

‘Good Morning, Warren’ Highlights City’s Revival

WARREN, Ohio – As Mayor Doug Franklin delivered his annual State of the City address Friday morning at Packard Music Hall, he remarked that it was “easy to draw a parallel” between the historic building and the city he governs.

“Both are experiencing quite a resurgence,” Franklin said at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber’s “Good Morning, Warren” breakfast.

Other speakers were Mark Marvin, president of Downtown Development Group; Jill Merolla, supervisor of community outreach and grant development for Warren City Schools; Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management Group; and Jeff Shaffer, membership director at Avalon Golf and Country Club.

Marvin, whose company later that day was expected to close on acquisition of the Atrium Building, adding another site to the list of downtown properties it had acquired for redevelopment, provided an update on the progress of those initiatives.

The Mahoning Building, one of the properties Downtown Development Group acquired last year, will be renovated for commercial space on floors one through four with the fifth and sixth floors renovated as apartments, and a penthouse suite and offices for the company on the seventh.

Work should be completed in about 2½ weeks on the fourth floor of the Mahoning Building, which the Regional Chamber will sign a long-term lease to occupy, relocating from the second floor of the building, he said. Move-in is scheduled for June 1. Two tenants on the fifth floor will move to the second floor.

Renovation of the sixth floor should be done this fall and the fifth floor about four months after that. “We’re actually ready to go to a wait list on the apartments because we’ve had so many calls for floor five and floor six,” he said.

Marvin’s company also acquired the building that for years housed WRRO-AM, which how has the Shops on the Square business incubator on its firth floor.

“On the second and third floor, what we plan is a complete demolition of what was existing up there – old apartments that probably haven’t been lived in since the ‘40s,” he said. “From some of the clothes that were left, maybe the ‘20s.”

Conversion of the space in that building will be concurrent with work on the Mahoning Building, with full renovation work scheduled to begin in early 2017 for upscale, luxury apartments on the front of the building and a two-story townhouse on the rear.

The downtown apartments won’t be targeted exclusively to the younger market, Marvin clarified. He said he has spoken to several people his age and older who no longer want to deal with moving lawns or clearing snow and have expressed interest in living downtown.

With the Atrium Building, Marvin said he wants to revert it to its earlier use as retail space. Years ago, the building served as the former Strouss’ department store’s outlet in Warren. More recently, one of its tenants was the Warren campus of Eastern Gateway Community College.

“Our plan is to open up that building and make it what it’s called, an atrium,” Marvin said. Under discussion is relocating the Shops on the Square to the second floor of the Atrium Building, which would have vendors such as a coffee shop and pizza shop on the first floor, and locating an upscale restaurant on the first floor of the former WRRO building.

During his remarks, Franklin touted developments in the city that range from last year’s opening of the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center downtown and the completion of Laird Technologies’ first full year of operations in the city to the start of implementation of infrastructure improvements in the Golden Triangle and progress on the proposed Auto Parkit headquarters and manufacturing hub.

“Although there are still a few obstacles to overcome,” the mayor said, the city and its partners “are all working diligently to get through the process so this project can come to fruition.” Auto Parkit owner and Warren native Christopher Alan has invested more than $500,000 in the project up to this point, he said.

In addition, he anticipates ribbon cuttings soon for two companies: Clark & Sons, a kitchen cabinetry manufacturer that took over a 288,000-square-foot space off Larchmont Avenue that sat vacant for years, and NEO-ARC, a recycling operation that moved into a 126,000-square-foot building on the southwest side.

Ryan recalled touring Packard Music Hall with a group of other management companies in 2010 when the city put out a request for proposals but felt the time wasn’t right for JAC, which has been operating the Covelli Centre in Youngstown since fall 2007. Nevertheless, he was surprised when no one bid to run it. When he spoke with representatives of the other management companies, they told him it was too risky.

JAC later pursued taking over management of Packard’s operations at the urging of Sam Covelli, owner of Covelli Enterprises here.

After meeting with Franklin and Enzo Cantalamessa, service and safety director, Ryan said three goals stuck in his mind: stopping the bleeding financially; reducing the subsidy to the hall and reducing the risk to the city; and bringing new business to Warren and returning the hall to its glory says.

“In 18 short months, we’ve done that,” he said. “We do it every day and we continue to work hard to do it.” Since JAC took over, Packard has had 14 sold-out concerts and booked artists including the Beach Boys, Joe Walsh, Counting Crows and Merle Haggard.

Merolla, serving as facilitator with Any Given Child Warren, provided an update on the initiative. The partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is aimed at maximizing students’ exposure to arts and arts education through eighth grade. Students Motivated by the Arts, or Smarts, will serve as the lead arts organization for Any Given Child Warren

The strategic plan will be voted on this month. “We will be assigning roles and we’re going to be developing a governance structure so it can be sustained in the upcoming years,” Merolla said.

Shaffer reported that Phase 1 of what so far is a $16 million project at the Avalon Inn is nearly complete. The first phase – reported by The Business Journal last year — includes a renovation that will leave the inn with 132 rooms and a new 25-meter indoor pool, the totally remodeled grand ballroom, the new fitness center and the new conference center in the Grand Pavilion.

Phase 2 is an addition to the east side of the hotel that includes a new entrance to the hotel, a multipurpose room and the return of the Tall Oaks Dining Room, he said. That phase should be done in another four to six weeks, he said.

Phase 3, which will involve a two-story addition to the rear of the hotel, is still in the planning stages, he reported. “If things go well this summer, we hope to break ground on our Phase 3 very early fall, sometime around September,” he said. Features include the addition of an outdoor pool, a “major salon and spa” and a large multipurpose room.

“The real exciting part of Phase 3, we’ll have what is called a Roman bath,” he said. “Think of a hot tub the size of a swimming pool, the water is heated to around 93 degrees.

“It will be enclosed on all four sides with roman columns but the really cool part is it will be open air. It won’t have a roof,” he continued. “So if you’re out there in December, January or February sitting in 93-degree water and the snow’s coming down, you’re going to get snowed on.”

Pictured: Atrium Building in downtown Warren. Developer Mark Marvin purchased the building Friday and is converting it into retail space.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.