Historical Society Buys IBM Building for $1.9M

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Downtown’s IBM Building has a new owner. The 250 E. Federal St. building was purchased by the Mahoning Valley Historical Society for $1.9 million last week, Mahoning County records show. 

The historical society, which purchased the property from Mills Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., has been a tenant in the building for about 20 years, Bill Lawson, MVHS executive director, said. When the building came on the market during summer 2021, the society entered into negotiations with the building’s ownership.

Mills Community Redevelopment is owned by members of the Mills Family, which also owns Ohio One Corp., the downtown landlord that manages IBM and other downtown properties. Ohio One put its downtown properties on the market in 2021 and sold the former Rica Building to businessman Tim Huber that year.

“I think we have found the right buyer for the property,” Ohio One President Rich Mills said. MVHS is a “good steward” of its properties and runs a “fantastic organization.” The historical society also entered into an agreement with Ohio One to manage the building.

“It’s a very large building, but it presents a lot of options, not only here and now to consolidate our collection storage but to plan for future program development there,” including additional museum exhibit space, Lawson said. “It’s conveniently located on the East End of downtown, and it would accommodate a lot of future growth.”

The building is 45,000 square feet, according to a description on the online listing service LoopNet.

The historical society already operates the Arms Family Museum on Wick Avenue, where its administrative offices are located, and the Tyler History Center on the downtown’s West End. 

What exhibits might be displayed in the building – whether pieces from its existing collection or “large and important collections” potentially donated by parties it is in discussions with – is “still being determined,” Lawson said.  

The acquisition of the building will serve as the keystone of a fundraising campaign now in development, he said. The historical society hasn’t done a space reallocation plan yet, but he anticipated that its administrative offices would remain at Arms.

Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape, a nonprofit community development organization, likened the sale to MVHS’s purchase of the Ross Radio Building, where it later opened the Tyler History Center. That purchase provided “a sense of grounding” to that section of downtown, and the sale of the East End property, not far from recent developments in that area – including Penguin City Brewing Co.’s brewery/taproom/event center and the Youngstown Flea – provides “another further stabilizing factor” for downtown.

“Historical societies and museums are all important anchors in revitalization,” she said.

Youngstown CityScape relocated its offices to the IBM Building’s fourth floor in May and uses the parking area for some of its equipment.

“We’re thrilled to be there,” Letson said.

“I think it’s working out for them,” Lawson affirmed. “We’re happy for them to stay on the fourth floor.”

Mills said Ohio One is updating marketing materials for its other downtown properties – the Ohio One Building, City Centre One and Commerce Building – and is preparing to reenter the market for those properties shortly. The company remains in discussions with a single purchaser that is interested in all three properties but remains open to offers on the properties, but no deal has been finalized, he said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.