International Towers Residents to be Relocated by Noon Friday

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – There’s still no decision on the fate of the Realty Tower downtown.

Meanwhile, the property management team of International Towers set a deadline of noon Friday for all residents of that building to be relocated, according to a media advisory from Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s office.

“We know this is an incredibly difficult situation for all of the residents at International Towers and the city is continuing to work hard towards a solution regarding the status of Realty Tower so they can return home as quickly as possible,” the advisory stated.

A structural engineering firm hired by the city found that the Realty Tower, 47 E. Federal St., is in imminent danger of collapse without modifications. A May 28 explosion battered the building, killing a Chase Bank employee, injuring several others and displacing the residents of its 23 apartments.

Brown said at a news conference Tuesday that it’s up to the building’s owner, YO Properties, to determine what to do with the building: demolish or stabilize it.

The engineering firm also recommended that all buildings within a 210-foot radius be closed. That distance is based on 1.5 times the height of the building.

That radius includes International Towers, which houses 165 apartment units. Its evacuation started Tuesday. The Stambaugh Building, which houses Bistro 1907 and DoubleTree by Hilton Youngstown Downtown, are within that radius as well. The Stambaugh has been closed, by order of the city fire chief, since the explosion.

Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, located just outside the 210-foot radius, issued an advisory Wednesday urging visitors to use the center’s rear entrance on West Federal Street until further notice.

International Towers is a privately owned income-based apartment building for people who are age 62 and older or who have a disability. 

The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley is working with other social service agencies to find places for International Towers residents to relocate.

“We’re looking at 30 days,” Hannon said of the estimated time residents will be in a different location. “Hopefully, it’s less than that. We don’t think it will be more. We’re hoping in three weeks that we can assess and know more.”

He acknowledged, though, that the amount of time depends on the Realty Tower’s owners’ decision regarding the building’s fate.

Of the residents at International Towers, 42 have found places to stay with family or friends, leaving 101 who need somewhere to go. 

Through the work of the United Way and other agencies, most of them are being located to other spots in assisted living centers, group homes and similar facilities.

As far as the others? “There’s no question that we’re going to find it,” Hannon said.

Residents include people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as those who are economically disadvantaged and without disabilities. Those without disabilities prove the most challenging to place because their placements aren’t covered by Medicaid, he said.

He met with Youngstown State University officials Wednesday, but because of restrictions in residence halls, such as prohibition against smoking, that won’t work, Hannon said.

Allison Centofanti, a YSU spokeswoman, said in an email that United Way officials took a site tour on campus.

“In the meantime, we are planning to put out a list to our campus community calling for donations based on United Way’s needs,” she said in the email.

The American Red Cross is one of the many agencies involved in providing services to meet the needs of displaced residents.

“The Red Cross is working with the United Way of Youngstown and other community partners to assess the needs of the affected residents of the International Towers, and will provide the support our partners need to make sure the needs of the residents are met,” Jim McIntyre, a spokesman for the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region, wrote in an email. “The Red Cross responds to disasters by providing immediate short-term assistance to affected residents. We then work with other community resources to help people find longer-term housing solutions.”

The advisory from Brown’s office said that once all residents have been placed, the city fire and police departments will conduct a floor by floor, unit by unit safety and welfare check.

“It is our goal to ensure that the core services and needs the residents rely on are not disrupted,” the advisory states. To that end, providers have collected information from all residents and will continually deliver services to them throughout this temporary relocation.”

The city, in the advisory, also thanked all of the organizations involved in helping the International Towers residents.

The United Way continues to field offers of assistance from restaurants, foundations and civic organizations. And a Downtown Recovery Fund on the United Way website has collected more than $1,000 from individuals.

The assistance effort is focusing on housing as a first step.

“Then, after that, medication and food – that will be the next step,” Hannon said.

Pictured at top: International Towers, at right, sits next to Realty Tower, which was damaged by an explosion May 28. (File photo)

Editor’s note: More coverage of the Realty Tower explosion can be viewed HERE.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.