Realty Tower Owner Works on Plan for Retrieval of Belongings

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The owner and property management company of the Realty Tower is working on a plan to retrieve personal items from the building before it’s demolished.

Meanwhile, a structural engineer specializing in historic preservation is expected to return Thursday to continue assessment of the building.

“We are currently working on a plan to retrieve personal items prior to any demolition,” says a letter sent Tuesday to Realty Tower residents by Live Youngstown Property Management LLC and Yo Properties 47 LLC, the owner. “The potential for their retrieval will require a highly orchestrated event involving several parties and technologies. Because of this, we are unable to provide a timeline but will keep you informed of our progress as we explore all possibilities.

It says that after consultation with city officials and engineering firms that demolition is the safest long-term solution. 

“We apologize for any mixed messages in the media or elsewhere as we worked diligently to exhaust all possibilities of building stabilization,” the letter says.

It also says that as an organization “we have spent personal resources and dedicated years to the responsible revitalization of historic buildings in downtown Youngstown. We did not arrive at this decision without careful and thoughtful counsel.”

The building suffered significant damage during a May 28 gas explosion that killed one man, injured several people and displaced Realty residents. The residents of International Towers next door were evacuated a few weeks later when a structural engineer hired by the city said Realty Tower was in imminent danger of collapse without modification. 

The DoubleTree by Hilton Youngstown Downtown hotel, Bistro 1907 and other businesses inside the Stambaugh Building have been closed since the explosion.

There is no date for demolition, but the letter says the ownership and management companies will keep residents informed as they explore all possibilities.

At a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said the company has until July 5 to act or the city will take legal action.

Councilman Julius Oliver, 1st Ward, said Structural Systems Repair Group, a Cincinnati-based engineering firm that specializes in historic buildings that have been damaged by natural and other disasters, will return Thursday to continue its assessment of Realty.

“These are experts,” Oliver said. “If these people are the only experts who have been on the site, they haven’t exhausted all possibilities.”

He, along with Councilman Mike Ray, 4th Ward, sponsored legislation approved last week to pay SSRG to assess the building.

If the company is permitted by the owners, it may use seismic equipment to determine if the building is moving. That information would be useful whether the owners decide to demolish or restore the building, Oliver said.

“Why not do it?” he said.

A Structural Systems Repair Group representative looks at the Realty Tower on June 20.

The building owners allowed SSRG representatives to be on-site for their assessment last week. When they return, they plan to bring additional personnel to continue the work.

“I don’t want any more mistakes coming from any other companies that are prone to make mistakes because they’re not vetted thoroughly,” Oliver said.

He said his interest is what’s best for the community, downtown and residents and to ensure public safety.

“As far as the mayor goes, I would assume the mayor and I are on the same page,” Oliver said. “I assume he wants a historic, beautiful building downtown to remain standing if it’s possible. We don’t need another parking lot downtown.”

He said the outcry he’s heard from downtown stakeholders is, “Please help us save this building,” and he wants to work with them to try to do that.

“In my opinion, it isn’t over,” Oliver said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.