20 Federal Place Youngstown

Mahoning Land Bank Seeks New Office Space

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning County Land Bank’s executive director, Debora Flora, said she hopes to have a lease agreement for her board of directors to act on in a couple weeks.

Flora, along with land bank board chairman Daniel Yemma, who is also Mahoning County treasurer; and the board’s legal counsel were given the green light to begin negotiations with potential landlords for a new office, following a special board meeting Monday morning. The board also voted to set aside $50,000 for moving and remodeling expenses.

The land bank and other tenants of the city-owned 20 Federal Place building were notified in July that they would need to vacate the property to accommodate environmental remediation work being done as part of the building’s proposed redevelopment.

The organization, which focuses on restoring vacant, abandoned and often tax-delinquent properties to productive use, has been in the building since 2005, moving from the mezzanine to a 4,000-square-foot space on the second floor in 2017, Flora said.

“We were notified recently that we need to be out by Sept. 9, as do many other tenants in the building,” she said. The intent is to have an agreement with a landlord for the land bank board to vote on when it meets on Aug. 23.

Flora and Yemma both emphasized the need to remain downtown.

“Downtown is very important to us. We need to do our work in person. We need to have access to the public. Most of our needs are met downtown,” Flora said.

“First and foremost, we want to stay in the downtown area because of the business that’s transacted by the land bank. They deal with the county auditor, the county treasurer, the county recorder,” Yemma affirmed.

Out of approximately 15 downtown properties that land bank officials looked at since being given notice, there are five “that we thought we had a reason for further discussion, and so we’re working with those to find the right fit,” Flora said.

As they consider options, Flora and Yemma said they are evaluating considerations such as security, parking, internet access and access for walk-in traffic. The land bank probably can’t go too much smaller than the current space. It has a staff of six people.

“We could probably get away with about 3,500 [square feet] of we had to, but we’d like to be at least about where we are,” Yemma said.

In addition to managing the brownfield grant for 20 Federal, the land bank is seeking a residential demolition grant to cover more than 800 demolitions. The organization originally had until Aug. 16 to respond to a series of follow-up questions from the Ohio Department of Development on the application but received an extension until Aug. 30, Flora said.   

The land bank, ironically, helped the city secure the nearly $7 million in state brownfield remediation funds that is forcing the office and other building tenants to vacate the property. 

“It’s in the best interest of the city and this building. The building really doesn’t have a future unless the renovation is done, and so we knew as we were writing the grant that our days here may be numbered,” Flora said. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.