Santon Electric Plays Role in 20 Federal Place Rehabilitation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Electricians are needed for wiring new structures, upgrading and making repairs. However, there’s proof they’re an integral part of jobs like the 20 Federal Place rehabilitation downtown.

For the last few months, Santon Electric has been disconnecting and rerouting power at the building and expects to be there until the end of 2023. Restaurants, retail and other businesses were operating inside until July 2022. That’s when tenants were ordered to vacate the building for remediation to begin.

Making Safety a Priority

Steve Boyce is the foreman on the job for Santon Electric. He says it’s been quite a challenge from the beginning.

“For the first week, I just walked the whole building. Everything was just left behind. I had to figure out how this place was wired and where power was going,” Boyce said.

He said the demo crews were moving fast, and he had to make sure everyone was coordinating on what was happening for safety reasons. That’s when Boyce and co-worker Erin Pope jumped into action.

“If someone accidentally hit a big line, it could be fatal. We marked all hot power pipes with red tape, so crews stay away from them,” Boyce said.

It took him days to locate all 20 electrical rooms inside the eight-floor building.

“Some of the rooms hadn’t been open for decades, and we didn’t have keys for them,” he said.

Power Plan

However, the electricity isn’t being turned off completely. It’s more of a rerouting process.

“There will be what’s called ‘temporary-permanent power’ installed for the renovation process,” Boyce said.

That consists of eight electrical panels staggered on every floor. Contractors need access to power for their work. Then when final plans for the building are decided, it could likely be moved again. Right now, 20 Federal Place belongs to the city of Youngstown.

“There are feasibility drawings, but no one technically owns the building yet,” Boyce said.

Quirks of the Work

Dealing with an old structure, the project turned up some puzzling situations. The original electrical panels aren’t marked like they are these days. Boyce laughed while explaining one mystery that took days to solve.

“We found out some of the power on the first and second floors was being fed from the seventh floor,” he said.

The source was coming from one of the well-hidden panels, and Boyce didn’t see it at first.

Old, unmarked panels make it tricky to follow power throughout the building.

Speaking of the seventh floor, that’s where the original electrical panel is located. There’s a plaque on the front marking the installation in 1926. A few of the switches still work, but most of them have been turned off.

“The backside of the panel is wired to feed newer panels installed in the ’80s during renovations for bigger systems – like the HVAC and boilers,” Boyce said.

A Building with a Past

The building also used to be home to Strouss-Hirshberg Co., and before being named Federal Place, it was also the Phar-Mor Building. The discount drug company went bankrupt in the early ’90s and was officially sold off in 2002.

The original elevator pulleys and relays are still standing on the eighth floor – along with the old transformers. They will eventually be removed, and Boyce says the whole room will be empty by the end of the year. Conduit has also been brought in for when the new elevators get installed.

Electricians have been careful not to cut power running to one of the HVAC units on the roof. It’s used to cool the building next door, which leases space for the service.

Foundational Fixes

The main power feed comes in through the basement and branches off into the rest of the building. In addition, fiber optic lines and the boiler are located there. Crews plan to fill part of the wall facing Federal Street with concrete.

Sub-basement issues need to be addressed before plans are finalized.

However, Boyce points out the sub-basement needs work because of a water leak going on for years. He says the entire area will likely be filled with concrete, too, but the water problem needs to be addressed.

“If it’s not fixed, the water will find somewhere else to go, and that isn’t good either,” he said.

Once the demo work is complete, the building will be down to a shell and have basic electricity. Although plans are still coming together for Federal Place, it’s expected to have commercial, office and living space available.

Santon Electric is a member contractor of NECA-IBEW Electricians, an association of IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown, IBEW Local 573 in Warren and signatory electrical contractors throughout the Mahoning Valley.


Pictured at top: Steve Boyce, right, foreman at Santon Electric, and co-worker Erin Pope have been working for months disconnecting and rerouting power at 20 Federal Place.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.