Motor Lodge Gift Offers ‘Tremendous Opportunity’ for East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — The former East Liverpool Motor Lodge, 2340 Dresden Ave., closed for a number of years, could see new life after being gifted Monday to the city’s Community Improvement Corp.

Built in 1982 by the Alsan Corp., the 5,300-square-foot complex boasted a motel, restaurant, skylight banquet room, health club and pool on nearly nine acres of ground, which were annexed into the city to accommodate the facility with water and sewer services. The property is currently valued at $1.75 million.

After changing hands and then falling into foreclosure by 2014, the facility has sat empty. But current owner Eli Gunzburg purchased the property in 2016 with plans of transforming the property into an assisted living development.

Under the corporate name ELML Investments, Gunzburg invested more than $2 million into the property to prepare it for that use, but said prior to Monday’s meeting the current uncertainty presented by COVID-19 and increased construction costs caused the project to become “unrealistic.” He decided to offer it to the city to “breathe new life into the property and to create transformative change in East Liverpool,” he said.

Eli Gunzburg, ELML Investments, addresses the East Liverpool Community Improvement Corporation about the transfer of the former Motor Lodge to the nonprofit organization.

“It is our joint vision that this property be restored to its prior grandeur and live its life with new purpose to become the location where life events are yet again celebrated, carrying on the 40-year tradition at this location and to best service the needs of the city of East Liverpool and its residents,” Gunzburg said in a prepared statement.

“We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years,” said CIC President Patrick Scafide, adding he and CIC member Tom Clark have said many times, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have that building” for possible development.

During a CIC property committee meeting Monday, members heard from Gunzburg, who said the building has “good bones” and that he has invested a considerable amount of money to provide security measures to the vacant building.

Asked by members if the facility still has electric and water services connected, he confirmed it does.

City Law Director Charles Payne advised his research showed a small mortgage on the property has been paid, and he recommended the CIC accept the property.

While the county auditor’s website shows all taxes paid, Scafide said the CIC will be responsible for paying the $8,720 annual tax bill this year, which will be returned since the CIC is tax exempt. It will also take on the electric bill for the facility which includes a security system.

Some exterior upkeep, such as landscaping and removing signs will need to be done, according to Scafide, who presented a $1,200 estimate from Veterans Energy Group of Calcutta to provide security measures to the property, including boarding up and securing windows, installing concrete barricades and keys for city departments, which was approved by the property committee.

Committee member Ray Perorazio reminisced that he was a rookie on the city fire department when the facility was under construction.

Jim Swoger, committee member and former city mayor, noted his father had been one of the bricklayers on the construction project.

Scafide said the property has come “full circle,” noting the CIC was first formed in response to grant funding secured in relation to the Motor Lodge being built, which had to be reinvested back into the community.

Calling the proposed gift a “tremendous opportunity for the community,” Mayor Greg Bricker said he was “very excited” about the proposal.

The committee voted to send the recommendation to the full CIC board for consideration, after which the board met and unanimously approved acceptance of the property.

After the meeting, Scafide said the plan now will be to place the property on the market for sale and development, saying he expects first to contact a company that has expressed interest in locating in the city.

“We can’t just let it sit there. It has to produce for the city,” he emphasized, calling this transfer “a big positive for the city of East Liverpool.”

Gunzburg and ELML Investments are no strangers to the city, inasmuch as he also owns and manages Valley Oaks Care Center, a skilled nursing facility (the former Nentwick Care Center) where more than $1 million in capital improvements have been made in the past 10 years. Valley Oaks has completely renewed the grounds and buildings at the center, and another $500,000 in renovations is planned over the next 18 months, Gunzburg said.

“I have been working for Eli for almost six years and have been given the opportunity to grow from floor nurse to director of nursing, with other clinical promotions in between,” said Layna Scafide, director of nursing at Valley Oaks. “I am proud to work for a company that goes above and beyond for its residents and employees. I hope to continue to further my career with the company.”

Pictured: Vacant for many years, the East Liverpool Motor Lodge on Dresden Avenue may find a new lease on life after being transferred to the city’s Community Improvement Corporation on Monday.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.