Proposal Would Give New Life to Former Riverview Florist Property

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – An unplanned trip for an ice cream cone could mean a chance at new life for the former Riverview Florist property,1860 Park Way. 

During a recent meeting of its board, the Community Improvement Corporation heard a proposal from Aaron Dodds, project manager at the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, about his efforts to procure a share of $500 million in Appalachian Community Development funds signed last year by Gov. Mike DeWine. 

The program will inject funds into the 32-county Appalachian County region, focusing on projects that highlight workforce development, entertainment, health care, downtown revitalization and significant outdoor space with historical, cultural and artistic tie-ins.

The program was assigned state-funded procured planners and engineers to assist with architectural and engineering aspects of projects.

According to Dodds, he and his wife drove through the city’s East End coming from Pennsylvania when she wanted an ice cream cone. To avoid road construction, they drove up Park Way where he spotted an abandoned Tudor building that once served as the showroom for the florist company, which has been abandoned for many years and earmarked by the CIC for development.

“I thought, ‘What an amazing, awesome property,'” Dodds told the board, saying he was prompted to reach out to CIC Executive Director Bill Cowan.

After walking the property with Cowan and other CIC members and a colleague from his department, Dodds decided to share with the board his plan for including Riverview in his grant application.

According to Dodds, “the government loves a good acronym,” and his HEARTS grant stands for history, environment, arts, recreation and tourism.

Among his ideas for the 80 acres is renovating the historical Tudor building as an events space with a commercial kitchen and large gathering space, highlighting its original architectural features and adding a greenhouse roof; and adding more than 1.5 miles of crushed rock walking trail, looping the property with the potential to connect with Thompson Park and passing around the pond, a bridge over the creek and an overlook at the waterfalls, with the addition of bridges, pavilions, benches and an overlook highlighting the Ohio River.

Also in his plans is adding a native pollinator field that would be part of the regional Appalachian Ohio Pollinator Trail to create a place for visitors to enjoy nature and take photographs.

“You’re all familiar with Riverview and know it’s going to take a considerable amount of money, but it checks almost all the boxes this grant wants to do,” Dodds said.

He emphasized what he proposed were just suggestions, saying, “This is your property. No one knows the needs of your town more than you do.”

It is possible that upscale or other types of housing or commerce could be worked into the property, according to Dodds, who said projects must be completed by October 2026, with grant applications due within the next five months.

There is no matching share required for securing the grant funding, and the CIC would retain ownership and all rights to the property if the project is completed. Dodds said the agency could decide to rent out the event space or even sell the property.

Saying proposed projects are already “heavy” on outdoor space, health care, workforce and downtown revitalization, Dodds said he considers the Riverview property a “foundational piece” of the grant application.

“We want to highlight the unique story of Appalachia and its sense of place, so that’s what we really liked about Riverview. We’d like to renovate the Tudor-style structure and focus on the historic aspects in an event space,” he said.

The CIC board voted unanimously, authorizing Cowan to prepare a grant application and review it with the law director before bringing it back to the board for a vote.

Dodds said that while there is “still time to tweak and adjust” projects, “the clock is ticking.”

Pictured at top: The former Riverview Florist property at 1860 Park Way.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.