Realty Owners, Managers Refute Critics’ Allegations

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The owner and property management company of the Realty Tower issued another statement late Tuesday, taking critics to task and saying they’re focused on downtown business owners and a path forward.

The statement follows a rally last week by people who want to save the building, which the owners plan to have demolished, and an anonymous letter, circulated widely on social media, critical of the building owners and some in city government.

The May 28 gas explosion at the downtown building killed one man, injured several other people and displaced the residents of the Realty’s 23 apartments. The Stambaugh Building has been closed since the explosion and International Towers was evacuated in mid-June due to safety concerns about Realty collapsing.

Here is the full text of the statement from YO Properties 47 LLC, which owns Realty Tower, and Live Youngstown Property Management, the property manager: 

The truth can’t be editorialized and it’s not anonymous. Unlike some who launch incendiary accusations from the shadows, we have never intended to be hidden; rather, we have been consumed with work: the work of traversing the uncharted path of an explosion’s wake, the work of finding solutions for the lives adversely impacted by the explosion of May 28. We never intended to be in a position of watching our beloved Realty Tower be demolished. We never intended to be the subject of ridicule, salacious and unfounded accusations, and insulted by community members who we’ve often worked alongside in this city. We never intended to be excluded from roundtable discussions hosted by those who have questions for us.

We have not been hiding. We were among the brave first  responders, the injured, and the displaced. We have remained with them, being the first to call the United Way and advocate for resources for the injured and displaced from International Tower and our building and assistance for the staff of the Doubletree Hotel and Bistro 1907. We have gathered facts and can see a practical path forward and we won’t let the voices of those who don’t know the facts be louder than ours which is why we are now addressing some recent events and series of questions.

Our Focus

The life of Akil Drake was tragically lost. The lives of residents were abruptly altered. Downtown businesses have been rendered inoperable. Festivals and concerts have been canceled. Our city has wallowed in the stalemate of destruction long enough. Our city can no longer be held hostage by unnecessary opinions, baseless ideas, and endless chatter. Time must be spent on a cure for our city which can only be found on an immediate path forward.

Others may focus on the brick and mortar, but our focus remains on the real soul of the city: the people of Youngstown. The lives of the residents who lost and were displaced from their homes, the lives of brave first responders that were risked, and the livelihoods of the true stakeholders, the downtown business owners. This is the real soul of the city. This is our focus.

The Path Forward, Guided by Facts

As previously stated, our decisions are responsible, just, and guided by the facts of five engineering firms. We can’t be distracted by the interests of a few because they are not tasked with the accountability we are: to help cure our city with the most feasible path forward.

Bill G. Halkiadakis of United Engineers & Consultants in New Jersey is an independent expert with 43 years of diverse engineering experience. Mr. Halkiadakis is one of the engineers who surveyed the site and his report echoed those of other engineering firms that examined the site. All five structural engineering companies, (including SSRG’s initial evaluation) have independently concluded that while the building could potentially be stabilized (at an estimated cost of at least $750,000), its longevity could not be guaranteed or insured.

Furthermore, each study of the site would extend downtown’s closures. Mr. Halkiadakis pointed out that any structural engineer has a considerable number of elements to assess in order to provide a holistic, comprehensive report. Minor damages and major damages all must be considered for an engineering firm to fully declare the building safe; a process that would shutter the entire downtown for an extensive amount of time.

Halkiadakis also asserts that this arduous process would likely never be complete due to the number of unknowns:

“Right now, for example, trying to repair (the inside of the building), debris would need to be removed which may result in additional partial collapse. So my thought process, which I believe is the opinion of other engineers, is that due to the fact that there are so many risks, and so many ‘unknown unknowns’, meaning we do not know a lot of things about the condition of the other structural elements of the building. In order for Youngstown to be able to allow not only the residents of this building but the other properties to come back to some type of normalcy, the fastest way for Youngstown to go back to their normal life is to proceed with the controlled demolition of the building which will allow those unknowns to be eliminated.”
-Mr. Bill Halkiadakis, United Engineers and Consultants

Actions vs. Rallies

Our downtown restoration projects have done more than raise voices at rallies and online. We have worked with community leaders, created comprehensive plans that were successfully executed, resurrected buildings others left for ruin, and stimulated downtown’s economy and culture with significant financial risk and against all odds. We know how to overcome and we will do it again. It is unfathomable why our invitation to “come to the table” has been omitted. Never once was our ownership group invited to a roundtable, rally, or discussion.

At this point, we will focus our attention on bringing individual business operators to the table who wish to move the city forward. The discussion of systematically restoring order and working to get businesses resources they need to reopen will begin immediately as the demolition takes place. We are actively working to schedule a roundtable discussion with the true stakeholders of downtown as we remain committed to action and having the courage to take the hard steps forward.

The Future

Those who believe this will be the downfall of Youngstown, don’t know Youngstown. They aren’t properly acquainted with Youngstown’s resilience; in fact, they underestimate it and don’t have the acumen to lead it forward. Ideas without action cannot create confidence.

Leadership assembles a team toward action, no matter how daunting the task may be. Our leadership will not continue to leave lives and businesses in limbo. We believe we must collaborate on efforts toward the city’s resurgence from the rubble. We are accomplishing just that with stakeholders and leaders who believe in moving forward, not those with special interests and no facts. We begin that path this week with reuniting our residents with some of their most precious belongings.

It is with hope for the future that we remain committed to the Realty Tower site. We have every intention of continuing our legacy of paying homage to Youngstown’s history while moving it toward a vibrant future.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.