Ohio One Plans Sale of Downtown Properties to ‘Caring Owner’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Ohio One Corp. is negotiating with a potential buyer for its City Centre One, Ohio One Building and Commerce Building downtown, with the intent of having the properties continue to be managed by a new company formed by Ohio One employees following the sale.

The real estate developer and property management company, which has operated downtown since 1975, listed the three buildings on the online real estate listing service LoopNet in mid-December. The company is working with NAI Pleasant Valley, Cleveland, to sell the properties.

City Centre One, built in 1973 by Ohio One’s principals before the company was formed, is listed at $4.1 million. Commerce Building, which Ohio One repurposed from the former Haber Furniture building in 1989, is listed at $2.9 million. The Ohio One Building, the former Ohio Edison Building that Ohio One
acquired in 1975 and is where the company is headquartered, is listed at $480,000.

Richard Mills, Ohio One’s president, said he is planning to retire, along with his sister, Kathy, who is Ohio One’s secretary/treasurer, and Bart Felger, senior vice president.

“We don’t want to sell to just anybody. We have worked for 50 years to create a good reputation,” said Mills, who took over the company from his father in 1990.

Additionally, the company is in the process of finalizing sale documents for the IBM Building, 250 Federal Plaza East. Last year, Ohio One sold the Rica Building, 117 S. Champion St., which houses the Soap Gallery on the main floor.

The intent is to sell the three buildings to a “caring owner” that will retain Ohio One Management Co., a company formed by Ohio One Corp.’s seven remaining employees, to manage and maintain the properties, Mills said.

Some Ohio One tenants have leased space for 30 or more years, and at least one tenant has been with Ohio One since 1974.

“We want our legacy to be continued,” he said. The company is focused on a “single buyer” that principals have engaged with for more than half a year, but he acknowledged there is “quite a bit of interest” in the buildings.

“Ohio One has been the backbone of our downtown real estate,” said Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape.

Ohio One has been a partner on CityScape’s annual Streetscape planting day. CityScape presented the Ohio One and the Mills family with the Sweet Grass Roots Award in 2019 for their work downtown, including involvement in efforts to preserve the Stambaugh Building, now the home of the DoubleTree by Hilton Youngstown Downtown hotel.

Hunter Morrison, an urban planning consultant for the city of Youngstown and an Ohio One tenant, said he had “no doubt that downtown would be in a far worse situation” had the Mills family and Ohio One “not been willing to stay the course [downtown] and provide a quality product.” Ohio One’s buildings are well maintained, and the company has a good staff, he said.

Morrison characterized Mills as “one of the most responsible downtown property owners I ever met.” He also said having the buildings operated and maintained by the existing Ohio One employees, who are familiar with the properties, would be important. He contrasted that with when Park Vista was acquired a few years ago and dismissed people who had worked there for decades.

“All buildings have quirks and challenges and patterns. Having an experienced crew that loves these buildings to death is really key to keeping them going,” he said.

Reflecting on his company’s history, Mills said he is proud of the tenant list Ohio One has had over the years, and noted the company never lost a tenant because of bad service, he added.

He also remembered adding a fifth floor to the Haber Building to accommodate the Youngstown Club, which was relocating to the property. “I was fortunate enough to have lunch with my dad in the Grille Room in 1989 before his passing in ’90,” he recalled.

Letson recalled a joke that theorized Ohio One must have heating units beneath the sidewalks surrounding its downtown buildings, based on how clean the sidewalks typically are following snows.

“It’s one thing to own a building. It’s another thing to manage a building well,” she said. “They’ve done a lot for our downtown.”

Pictured at top: The City Centre One building in downtown Youngstown.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.