20 Federal Place Youngstown

20 Federal Renovation, Dorian Books Projects Await Council OK

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Members of City Council will take up a proposed agreement with a Pittsburgh architectural firm to redevelop 20 Federal Place.

Council’s finance committee moved without discussion to consider entering into a memorandum of understanding with Desmone, the firm it has been working with since summer on the 20 Federal project. The MOU will be discussed when council meets Wednesday.

Representatives of Desmone and Steadfast City Economic & Community Partners, St. Louis, presented plans for the building during a virtual meeting Nov. 18 of the community planning and economic development committee. Those plans include developing a rooftop restaurant, observation deck, apartments and office space.

“It seems like we left that meeting all pretty comfortable with moving forward with Desmone,” said Fifth Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally, finance committee chairwoman.  

The MOU will let Desmone represent to potential tenants and financial partners it’s the sole developer the city is working with on the property, said Kyle Miasek, city finance director. If council approves the legislation as expected, the board of control will vote on entering into the agreement Thursday, he said. 

During Wednesday’s meeting, council members will also consider a $2 million float loan to support 802 Elm Development LLC’s redevelopment of the building that formerly housed Dorian Books.

Mazzarini Real Estate Group, Pittsburgh, owns about 80% of 802 Elm Development, said T. Sharon Woodberry, city economic development director. The real estate company intends to develop a deli offering fresh fruits, produce and other staples on the ground floor and eight four-bed, furnished apartment units on the upper two floors.

The developer is in the process of purchasing the 802 Elm St. property and wants to close on financing for the project by the end of the year, Woodberry said. 

The city would loan $2 million to 802 Elm Development for up to 12 months at 0.25% interest. The loan would be backed by an irrevocable letter of credit from Premier Bank, the lender the city is working with, according to Woodberry.

“It’s 100% guaranteed by the financial institution, putting the city at no risk for recovery or default,” she said, 

The company wants to line up its financing by year-end, she said. The plan is to redevelop the property within seven to eight months, for completion by the time Youngstown State University begins the fall 2022 semester. 

Council members, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and members of his administration engaged in an extensive discussion regarding entering into agreements for grants totaling $1.6 million for Walnut and Boardman streets that include the creation of a pedestrian staircase on Walnut from Wood Street to Commerce Street.   

The total budget for the upgrades was estimated at $2.9 million, but Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, said that estimate is high. He said some of the work envisioned for the project will end up being done as part of the upgrade to downtown streets underway through the $27.65 million Smart2 – or Strategic & Sustainable, Medical & Manufacturing, Academic & Arts, Residential & Recreational, Technology & Training – project.

The project will build on the work already being done downtown and will support the case when the city seeks other grant money for projects, Shasho said.

“For economic development purposes and job creation, I would say it’s absolutely necessary,” he said. 

It would be a “disservice” to downtown if the city just stopped with the Smart2 improvements without continuing to build on them, Woodberry said

“You do have property owners downtown who are anxiously waiting for the additional improvements that are going to spread through downtown and continue what’s been happening,” Woodberry added. 

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Anita Davis questioned the continued emphasis on downtown at the apparent expense of the rest of the city. She estimated that the city has made nearly $80 million in downtown investments.

“Are we going to expand from downtown at some point?” she asked. 

Brown emphasized that investment in downtown serves as a catalyst.

“If you can get people to invest in your downtown, you take those income tax dollars and do what you need to do in those neighborhoods,” he said.

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