Offer Made for Former School Property in East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – The Community Improvement Corporation has taken under advisement an offer for the 6-acre parcel of land in East End where East Junior High School was recently demolished, including plans to build a housing complex on the property.

During a presentation to the CIC board last week by Jimmy McCune, vice president of development for Albany, Ohio-based Wallick Communities, board members were asked to consider an agreement to sell the Maryland Avenue property for $150,000, making way for development of a complex made up of between 70 and 90 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The apartments would be income restricted to those earning 80 percent of the area median income as set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to McCune, who said that would mean a family of four, for example, making $67,000 or less annually would qualify.

“They’re not subsidized in any way. There’s no Section 8 or anything attached to it. The rents are basically capped,” McCune said, explaining that the funding resources for which Wallick will apply to build the complex requires rent to be income restricted to area income levels.

“We compete for state resources issued by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, primarily low income tax credits,” McCune said, noting the project would use the same funding program as that used by developers of the Market Street Lofts recently built at the corner of Market and Fifth streets downtown.

According to McCune, the tax credit program has been available since the 1980s and has been used to construct hundreds of thousands of apartment units.

He and colleague Matt Dennis showed the board three concepts being considered for the complex, saying the apartment units would be between 650 to 700 square feet for one bedroom; 850 to 950 for two bedrooms; and 1,000 to 1,100 for three bedrooms.

Rent would range from $400 to $1,000 per month, depending on size, with each unit having full amenities including washers and dryers, dishwashers and a full range. 

The complex would include a playground, an exercise room and a community center, and would employ an on-site manager, maintenance person and a part-time support person for residents.

McCune said Wallick Communities would serve as not only the developer but the contractor, long-term owner and manager. He said the company currently has about 13,000 units under ownership and management in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

“We can’t build it and sell it and make a quick buck. We have to own it at least 15 years,” McCune said.

Asked where Wallick owns units closest to East Liverpool, McCune said the company manages units in Bridgeport and owns two in Cambridge, Ohio. He said a complex recently completed in Hillsboro, Ohio, is similar in style as the concept being eyed for the Maryland Avenue property, and it was fully leased within three months of construction, with a waiting list of tenants.

During a recent meeting of housing authorities, McCune said, it was agreed there is a dearth of affordable housing, but a market study will be commissioned for the East End property to determine the exact need.

“We think there is a demand for multifamily housing, and that’s why we’re going back and forth between 70 and 90 units. The market has to be able to support it.”

Mayor Greg Bricker questioned if there is any interest in constructing a senior living complex, but McCune said those are much more expensive to build than multifamily units, and the type of funding they are seeking doesn’t lend itself to such projects.

He said they considered a 55-and-older project but decided the family version was more economical and opened up the project to the entire population. Seniors could live at the proposed complex, with their rent adjusted to their income, he said. 

“We have pretty strict funding time lines,” McCune said, explaining that they must apply for housing development assistance program resources and tax credits by Sept. 28 and would need a purchase and sales agreement, as well as a letter confirming the property’s zoning, before submitting an application. 

If the tax credits are awarded, they are in turn sold to an investor, such as a bank, which then provides the equity for construction of the project, according to McCune, who said the process is heavily regulated and audited.

Board member Tom Clark asked what happens if the tax credits are not awarded once the purchase agreement is in place, saying he would not want to tie up the property. McCune said they could apply for a second round in February, or the CIC could put the property back on the market. 

Board President Pat Scafide said another meeting should be held for further discussion, noting only about half the board was present at the current meeting.

“We have dealt with these things before,” Scafide said to McCune. “People come in and build low-income housing then sell it. That’s the nightmare we’ve lived with.”

“We’ve never done that,” McCune replied.

He told Scafide a letter of intent will be prepared and sent, outlining the proposal.

Bill Cowan, CIC executive director, said this week no additional meetings have been scheduled to consider the proposal.

Demolition of the former school building took place this summer. The property was swapped in 2012 by the city school district to the city for land on Pope Street, and the city then transferred it in 2022 to the nonprofit CIC for development purposes.

Pictured at top: The East Liverpool Community Improvement Corporation heard a presentation from Matt Dennis, left, and Jimmy McCune of Wallick Communities regarding a proposal for the former East Junior High School property.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.