Some Possessions Will Be Retrieved from Realty Tower

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Residents of Realty Tower may be able to get some of the treasured possessions from their former homes.

When the residents of the 23 Realty apartments left their homes May 28, they had no idea they would never return. But a gas explosion that afternoon damaged the building, killing a Chase Bank employee on the building’s first floor, injuring several others and displacing residents.

Residents left keepsakes and valuables, as well as personal documents. After the engineers hired by Realty’s owners deemed the building in “imminent danger of collapse without modification,” the owners decided to demolish it. No schedule for demolition has been announced.

On Tuesday, Live Youngstown Property Management, which managed Realty, sent an email to residents.

“Contrary to recent reporting, the physical demolition of the building has not begun,” the email said. “One of our priorities has always been to reunite our residents with their belongings prior to the building being demolished.”

And some of their items will be retrieved under a procedure executed by city fire Chief Barry Finley and “with the assistance of many brave, highly trained firefighters who are volunteering their time,” it says, adding that they expect Mayor Jamael Tito Brown to approve the plan.

That’s welcome news to at least some Realty residents.

“It’s better than nothing,” said Charles Cook, who lived in the building with his husband. “I’ll take it.”

The couple has since relocated to Hawaii where Cook, an actor, got a job.

“There are a handful of things in there that we’d really like to get out,” he said. “Like my husband, his mother’s ashes are in there. He’s an artist, and a lot of his artwork is in there, in our closet. Honestly, if we could get some of those little personal items out, that would be the best.”

Tracey Winbush lived in the building with her 94-year-old mother. One of the things she’d like to have back is a pair of her mother’s shoes. Her mom’s feet are narrow, and it’s difficult to find shoes that fit and are comfortable. 

Her mother’s wedding rings and photos of the two of them that are hanging on the refrigerator are among other items she would like to have back.

Other things, such as Winbush’s favorite suit and the only spatula she uses to flip eggs, would be hard for someone else to locate in the apartment, she said. Winbush previously digitized many personal photos, and she kept personal documents offsite.

“First, we don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Winbush said. “But secondly, we do want our stuff. We’ll take it.” 

She hopes the process goes smoothly.

“This is better than anything else we could get,” Winbush said. 

The process will begin July 10, with residents provided the time slots next week. They will learn the protocol when they arrive at the building.

“Our commitment to safely and securely retrieving your most valuable and irreplaceable items remains paramount; for that reason, you will not be permitted to retrieve the items yourselves,” the email said.

Residents were given a spreadsheet to prioritize items and return it to the management company by Friday.

“We will make one pass through each apartment and will collect items that may be contained in a small standard size carry-on suitcase, which we will provide,” the email to residents said.

It adds: “Any item desired to be retrieved can be listed, however larger items that would be difficult to carry through the rubble and down the stairs will more than likely be left behind.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.