Port Authority Approves Agreements With County, Cities

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority approved extending its partnership with the city of Warren to move city properties back into productive use and entered into a similar agreement with Mahoning County.

Members of WRPA’s board of directors approved the agreements, under which the city and county can transfer properties to the port authority to market for economic development purposes, at their final scheduled meeting of 2022 on Wednesday morning.

The board’s action authorized Anthony Trevena, WRPA’s executive director, to enter into another cooperative agreement with the city of Warren. The two entities entered into their initial agreement in 2017.

Political subdivisions that directly dispose of properties are required to put those out for bid rather than sell them directly, while port authorities have “a little more liberty” with property transfers, Trevena said.

Since the initial agreement with Warren, the port authority has transferred four properties that have been successfully redeveloped, including the former Warren Scope Center and the former Mickey’s Army-Navy plaza.

The Mahoning County Board of Commissioners approved entering into a memorandum of understanding with the port authority last week.

“This is a blanket agreement,” Sarah Lown, public finance manager for the port authority, said. Under the MOU, should Mahoning County have a piece of property that needs to be acquired and improved, the port authority would act as the agent to undertake those activities on the county’s behalf.

In other business, the port authority approved accepting $300,000 in American Rescue Plan funds from the city of Youngstown to manage capital improvement projects in the city’s 5th Ward. The agreement is modeled on a similar one the port authority entered into with the city to accept $200,000 in ARP funds to manage projects in the 4th Ward.

City Council will vote on the funding request at its meeting Wednesday evening.

The agreements build on work WRPA has done over the past few years on Mahoning Avenue, said Nick Chretien, WRPA regional planning and development manager and executive director of Economic Action Group.

Last year, the port authority, under a property transfer agreement with Youngstown, transferred a pair of buildings along the corridor to Voyager Specialty Coffees and Teas, which is relocating its manufacturing and distribution operation from Canfield and opening a coffee house.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally, who proposed allocating the ARP funds for her ward, said the ARP agreements with the port authority build on a vision she and 4th Ward Councilman Mike Ray had for Mahoning Avenue several years ago that began with a small, grassroots group.

Other recent investments along the corridor include the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County’s $4 million Michael Kusalaba branch, which has helped anchor that area, as well as others including Westside Bowl.

“To have a partner like the port authority willing to take on a big chunk of what’s needed is amazing,” McNally said. In addition, the city is going to spend about $3.3 million on infrastructure, she said.

The work will take several years before the complete fruits of their collective labors will be seen, “but once it’s done, it’ll be really cool,” she added. Hopefully it will provide a “blueprint” for what can be done in other parts of the city, she said.

WRPA board member Ed Muransky applauded the kinds of “generational” investments being made with the ARP funds.

“What you’re doing is investing in something that your child and their children will enjoy,” he said.

Wednesday’s meeting also was the first for WRPA’s newest employee, planning manager Krista Beniston, former Boardman Township zoning and development director. She currently is focused on implementing a strategic planning and development analysis for Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the port authority operates.

The goal is to craft a development or strategic plan for the airport, as well as to look at how to position the airport for its current tenants and to attract future tenants, Beniston said. The current timeline calls for the study to be completed next fall.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.