Preservationist Works to Save Warren Building from Demolition

WARREN, Ohio – A local preservationist is looking to save the Reeves Building, but the building’s current owner isn’t convinced the property is worth saving. And city officials have plans for the site.

Built in 1926, the building at 295 W. Market St., on the peninsula near downtown, was purchased by the Western Reserve Port Authority in March for $525,000.

The port authority is working in partnership with the city, which has deemed it “uninhabitable” and “a public nuisance,” according to Anthony Trevena, port authority executive director.

“The city has applied for and is seeking grants to raze the building,” Trevena said.

“There is a demolition order on it, yes,” Mike Keys, Warren’s community development director, affirmed.

Once the building is demolished, the site would be “an integral part” of a mixed-use development that Dillin Corp., a Dayton area developer, has proposed for the city. Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp. and Trumbull County Land Bank control other nearby properties.

The Reeves Building has gone through various owners in recent years, and at one point the city sought to acquire it, Keys said. 

A partnership that previously owned the building had plans to restore it and reduce the number of units from 60 to 40, and its tenants at the time were relocated to prevent asbestos exposure during the work. The partnership broke up, and the property was sold.

Cindee Mines, a preservationist who lives in Champion Township, is convinced the building can be saved and repurposed. Mines previously was involved in the effort to relocate what is believed to be the oldest house in Howland Township from its original site on state Route 46 to property across from Howland Middle School, as well as other preservation campaigns.

“I love old buildings, and I hate to see them demolished if they don’t need to be demolished,” Mines said.

By definition, every house in Warren is historic because they all are older than 50 years, according to Keys.

Independent of the port authority, Mines submitted a National Register Preliminary Questionnaire to Ohio’s State Preservation Office. The office responded in a letter dated June 17 that, based on a committee’s review of the materials Mines submitted, the building would “likely qualify” for the National Register of Historic Places.

“However, before beginning to prepare a nomination, the committee requests clear photographs of the interior to confirm historic integrity,” wrote Mary Rody, survey and National Register manager, inventory and registration for the state historic preservation office. “Character defining features the committee would be looking for are historic finishes [if present or not], room divisions [has the commercial and residential layout remained or has it been altered], and circulation pattern [original staircases and hallways are in original locations and layout].” 

Mines said she has been communicating with several parties interested in investing in the property to preserve it. They include an entity that was involved with preserving a school building in Cleveland that now operates as a senior living center, and the historic preservationists involved with redevelopment of the Warren Family Fitness center in the former Warren YMCA building.

To her knowledge, the port authority and the city have not spoken with entities that have handled projects like these before. “They talked to people that have rehabbed buildings, but not [done] historic preservation,” she said.  

“Everybody that looked at the building, and I had some really good developers look at it, who figured it would be a $4 million to $5 million refurb,” Keys said. Larry Dillin, president and CEO of Dillin Corp., looked at the building and decided he would be “better off tearing this down and building something new on top.”

Trevena said he has “the utmost respect” for Mines and her efforts to preserve the community’s history, but the Reeves Building has gone through multiple hands and no one has been able to do anything productive with it.

“The only thing this building’s been able to do over the last few years now is actually deteriorate,” he said. “There’s been no developer that’s been able to find a path for restoration.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.