Marvin, Mayor Tout Development Progress Across Warren

WARREN, Ohio – Renovation of the Robins Theater is proceeding on schedule, developer Mark Marvin said Friday, and the recent discovery that the building’s existing plumbing and HVAC systems are usable will mean big savings in time and expense.

Marvin, president of Downtown Development Group, provided an update on the project, announced earlier this year, at the Good Morning, Warren! breakfast presented by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

Marvin was the last of five speakers at the breakfast program at Enzo’s Restaurant.

Marvin, who recently moved into an own apartment building he owns downtown, began purchasing and renovating downtown properties in 2015. “We’ve tried to drive foot traffic downtown. That’s our main goal,” he said.

While successful at bringing several entrepreneurs downtown, he also felt the needed to fill another niche: entertainment. The restored Robins Theatre will occupy a market not filled by the Packard Music Hall, which is larger than the Robins, and the Warren Community Amphitheater, which is not a year-round venue.

“The theater itself was actually fairly well preserved,” Marvin said. An evaluation of the property showed that the HVAC system was “not in bad shape,” allowing contractors to reuse the existing ductwork and save hundreds of thousands of dollars, he reported.

In addition, the building’s plumbing is cast iron, which also will be able to be reused, he said.

“The HVAC was our biggest concern,” he said. Two months ago he had been told the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system work would take 20 months, meaning a completion date near the January 2020 reopening. “With this, we’re going to save about four months, so we’ll be in pretty good shape,” he said.

Also speaking at the breakfast were Mayor Doug Franklin, who delivered his annual State of the City Address; Steve Chiaro, Warren school superintendent; Kathy Cook, president of Mercy Health’s St. Joseph Warren Hospital; and Luis Deviveiros, vice president and director of operations, manufacturing and logistics for Johnvince Foods, which recently moved into the Warren Commerce Park space vacated by cereal manufacturer Kellogg Co. when it closed its distribution center there earlier this year.

Franklin covered an array of topics during his remarks, including the eBay Retail Revival initiative with local businesses, commercial and residential demolition efforts, a proposed public wireless internet system downtown and in other targeted areas, and reconstruction for U.S. Route 422 – a project already underway – and Dietz Road in the Golden Triangle area, which will begin this summer.

“I cannot stress enough what an important manufacturing district that is to our communities,” he said. With more than 35 companies employing thousands of residents, it is the second largest manufacturing cluster in the Mahoning Valley behind Lordstown.

Franklin also announced that the city will partner with Inspiring Minds, the We Are Warren initiative, city schools, the Eastern Ohio Education Partnership and the Raymond John Wean Foundation to introduce a new summer career development program.

The program will place recent high-school graduates and college students in paid positions at local companies for up to 12 weeks during the summer.

“For years, we have been talking about the ‘brain drain’ in the Mahoning Valley, young people taking their talents elsewhere,” the mayor said. “The goal is to show students that there are real opportunities for talented young professionals in their own hometown.”

In addition, Franklin discussed the city’s partnership with the Western Reserve Port Authority to redevelop city properties. The first project to come out of that partnership is the redevelopment of the former Warren Scope senior center as a winery, another Marvin project.

Following the breakfast, Marvin said he and the operator of the proposed winery met Thursday and he expects to have contracts signed in the next few days.

The goal is to have at least part of the winery open by late fall this year, he said.

“We have the place completely gutted,” he said. “Probably within the next few weeks we’re going to start construction of the interior, and next week we’re actually starting to grade the back to prepare it for concrete.”

Johnvince, a wholesale distributor of dried fruits, nuts and candies based in Ontario, Canada, recently relocated its local operation to Warren from Lordstown, where it had operated since 2014, Deviveiros said. The company is now handling distribution from the Warren site, but is setting up lines to do packaging and repackaging,

At 45,000 square feet, the Lordstown facility “was just too small,” Deviveiros said, and the Warren site is 130,000 square feet. “We needed more space because our business was growing,” he said.

The plant has about 45 employees now, but Deviveiros said he expects that to grow to roughly 70 once all shifts are active, probably by the end of this year. He also touted the character of the local workforce.

“I can teach people how to run machines. I can teach people how to do packaging,” he said. “I can’t teach them to give a damn and want to be successful.”

Pictured: Developer Mark Marvin was among those providing project updates at the Youngstown/ Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning, Warren! breakfast.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.