RG Steel Warren, Ohio

Port Authority Hears Proposal to Redevelop Former Republic Site

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – MegaJoule Ventures LLC has proposed a partnership with the Western Reserve Port Authority to redevelop part or all of the former Republic Steel site for the advanced energy sector. 

The meeting was one of several the port authority has taken regarding the approximately 800-acre site, said WRPA CEO John Moliterno following MegaJoule’s presentation Wednesday.

In May, the WRPA board voted to accept the donation of the Pine Avenue Southeast site from BDM Warren Steel Holdings. The agency is in the process of finalizing that transaction.   

Last year, though a related real estate entity – Valley Properties – Warren-based MegaJoule purchased an office building that was previously owned by BDM and is adjacent to the property the port authority is acquiring. 

“Our hope and our goal is really just to work together with the port once they have control of the site to start unpacking what’s possible,” said Ted Theophrastus, outside general counsel for MegaJoule and Valley Properties.

MegaJoule invests in and starts companies in the advanced energy and sustainability field. The company is interested in working with the port authority to develop the site “in a way that’s amenable” to that sector, Theophrastus said. 

“That could be power generation or energy storage. It most certainly would be companies that are in the supply chain for vehicle electrification,” he said. “Voltage Valley is a big part of this, and as we’re trying to attract companies and start companies and bring new potential here, they need a place. More than a place, they also need a kind of an ecosystem so the intent is to try to develop all of these properties in a way that they supply the elements that are useful and aligned with what those companies need.”

MegaJoule knows that the property will be coming into the port authority’s possession in the next month or so, Moliterno said. “So they have an interest in what’s going on with the property and certainly want to reach out and see how they could work with the port authority.”

Beyond just acquiring and developing some or all of the site, MegaJoule is also looking to collaborate on developing a strategy for the Pine Avenue corridor, Theophrastus said. The company spent much of last fall conducting due diligence on the BDM property, including “intense environmental due diligence” and regional infrastructure.

The former Republic Steel site.

WRPA representatives have regular conversations with multiple parties interested in projects utilizing part or the entire site, though they cannot take action on any of them until the port authority has control of the site, Moliterno said. 

Also during Wednesday’s committee meeting, the board members heard about the request by a group of local economic development organizations, including the port authority, to the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners for up to $2.5 million from the county’s $44.4 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funds for targeted initiatives in Struthers and Campbell.

The Western Reserve Port Authority, Castlo Community Improvement Corp., Economic Action Group and Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber are seeking funds to assist new businesses, help existing businesses with their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and assist with redevelopment of the VanSuch Building in Campbell and the old McKinley Building in Struthers, two “catalyst buildings” in the cities, said Sarah Lown, public finance manager for the port authority.   

The port authority already has prospective office and retail tenants looking at occupying the buildings, Lown said. EAG would assist with spot code enforcement to help the target communities. 

“It’s really a full-scale effort to target these areas,” said Nick Chretien, EAG program manager. Other components would involve beautification efforts in the cities’ central business districts, Chretien said. As part of the initiative, the Regional Chamber would provide assistance through its Emerge program, which was started last year to assist businesses during the pandemic.  

The port authority also is working with Eastern Gateway Community College to evaluate proposals from bidders for an estimated $5 million renovation of its downtown Youngstown parking deck at Thomas Humphries Hall. The goal is to select a firm within three weeks, said Randy Partika, WRPA project manager and development engineer. He anticipates the project will take up to 18 months after work begins and would go into 2023. 

The building has had a lot of deferred maintenance, said Anthony Trevena, WRPA chief operating officer. Building a comparable structure would probably cost between $35 million and $40 million, he said. 

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.