June Start Date for $13M ‘Enclave’ Housing Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Construction of a $13 million student housing project to serve Youngstown State University should get underway in mid-to late June, a representative of the developer said Wednesday.

The Western Reserve Port Authority Board of Directors heard an update on the Enclave, being developed by LRC Realty, Akron. During their meeting, directors also authorized a lawsuit that accuses Aerodynamics Inc., the company that briefly operated passenger service at the regional airport, with fraud (READ STORY).

Gary O’Nesti, special projects director with LRC Realty, told the board that an August 2018 opening is planned. The ground lease with the state of Ohio should be completed next week and the securing of a permit begin within a week,  he reported.

The student housing will be built on the block bordered by Lincoln Avenue to the north, West Rayen Avenue to the south, Phelps Street to the east and Lincoln Avenue to the north.

The port authority, which last year approved issuing up to $14 million in bonds to finance construction, yesterday approved distribution of sales tax exemption certificates for distribution to contractors. “We’re going to use as much local construction as we can,” O’Nesti said.

The Enclave will consist of 105,511 gross square feet for housing and 11,020 square feet for retail space, he said.

The housing units will consist of 12 one-bedroom apartments, 15 two-bedroom apartments and 38 four-bedroom apartments.

The retail component will consist of two buildings: a new 7,570-square-foot structure at the corner of Lincoln and Rayen, and the property where the former Campus Book and Supply store sat. Negotiations have begun to acquire that building, which could be reused or demolished and a new structure built in its place.

“We’re in the process of working through that right now,” O’Nesti said. What happens to the property likely will hinge on tenants.

Construction of the residential portion of the complex should take 13 months. O’Nesti expressed confidence it would be completed by Aug. 18, 2018, in time for YSU’s fall semester. Construction on the retail component should begin in March, and discussions are underway with potential tenants, he reported.

In addition, the port authority board heard a presentation by Randy Partika, project manager for the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, WRPA’s economic development division, on efforts by various parties to secure medical marijuana operations locally and what to expect in terms of economic development.

Partika is tracking local activity related to the effort on behalf of the Mahoning River Mayors Association, which the port authority manages. Up to a dozen entities may seek licenses for operations locally, Anthony Trevena, director of the development and finance authority, said.

Five entities made presentations to Youngstown City Council earlier this week.

The state will grant  12 large-grow licenses, with applications due by June 30 and final approvals made by Dec. 1. Product is to be made available to processors by Sept. 1, 2018. Processing licenses are to be awarded in October. There will be about 50 processors approved and perhaps 70 dispensary licenses awarded, including likely two or three in the Mahoning Valley, he said.

Board member David Detec, an attorney in Warren, offered a caveat regarding the efforts. Regardless of state law, growing marijuana even for medical purposes remains a federal felony.

A directive known as the Cole Memorandum, issued under the Obama administration, essentially instructed federal law enforcement to “look the other way” on medical marijuana, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions “has thrown out hints” that he isn’t happy with Cole, “which makes everybody involved with medical marijuana very nervous,” Detec said.

“If you’ve got a license to do it, you’re doing it. It’s a no-brainer to convict you federally, and the penalties are huge,” he remarked. “So just a word of caution.”

The attorney said  there are various pieces of legislation in Congress that address the issue, such as recognizing medical use of marijuana in states where it is legal or just reducing marijuana from a Class 1 substance, which would reduce the penalty. Marijuana is legal in 28 states and another eight are “seriously considering it,” he said.

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