Square One Health, Youngstown

Square One Health Begins Renovations at Former California Palms Site

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – An effort to rehabilitate the building and reputation of the former California Palms complex just off state Route 46 is underway.

Square One Health Youngstown, a division of a drug and alcohol recovery group that operates a clinic in Ashtabula, plans to open its facility here in February, said Audrey Novotny, its executive director.

“We’ll probably have between 40 and 50 employees,” she said. These include nurses, counselors, behavioral health techs, drivers and other positions. “I’m receiving resumes already. We’ll be doing some hiring within the next month.”

The plan is to incorporate all levels of drug and alcohol recovery care under a single roof, Novotny said, including treatment for all types of substance abuse. “We will offer mental health care as well,” she added.

Novotny said the site at 5455 Clarkins Drive presented an ideal opportunity because of its size and location near the Interstate 80 and state Route 46 interchange.

“We can serve a lot of clients and help as many people as possible,” she said. “We try to remove all of the barriers to access to quality care. So we wanted somewhere centrally located.”

The 65,000-square-foot building, a former hotel, includes 150 private rooms with a bathroom and shower, Novotny noted. Among other features in the building are a fitness center and a therapeutic spa. A chef will also be on hand to prepare and serve meals with a high nutritional value, she said.

Novotny said it’s imperative the public understands that the troubles associated with the property in the past are finally put to rest.

“There is a stigma with this property that we’re going to change,” Novotny said. “Our goal is to turn it into a place that has a positive impact on the community,” she said.

The building once housed California Palms Addiction Recovery Center, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that fell into foreclosure in 2021.

Pender Capital purchased the building out of foreclosure in April 2021 from California Palms LLC for $4 million. According to documents filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, the tenants refused to vacate the property.

After several delays, including the California Palms LLC bankruptcy, the court issued a writ of restitution, granting the Mahoning County sheriff authority to evict the tenants and former owners of the property and clearing the way for a sale.

Public records show that the building was sold to VDBE Youngstown LLC and VDBE Youngstown TIC LLC on Sept. 21 for $7.8 million.

VDBE Youngstown was incorporated Aug. 9 and lists its address as 130 1st St. Lakewood, N.J., state records show. The address is the same as VDB Equities LLC, a company that owns and rents mostly vacation properties in Florida, according to its website.

In January, the U.S. government filed a complaint in U.S. District Court alleging that California Palms and its operator, Sebastian Rucci, defrauded Medicaid for more than $5 million. Federal agents searched the premises in October 2021 and seized approximately $600,000 from California Palms’ bank accounts.

Jason Aro, general counsel for Pender, wrote an email to Austintown Zoning Inspector Darren Crivelli in July assuring township officials that Rucci is in no way associated with the recent sale to VBDE.

“I want to clearly convey that the previous owner, Mr. Sebastian Rucci, has absolutely no involvement in this transaction,” the email stated. “The buyer under contract to purchase the property is an investment group out of New York, and the anticipated tenant has a solid reputation.”

Contractors were busy at the location Wednesday painting and performing renovation work.  The garish replica palm trees that graced the outside of the building when it was California Palms are now gone.

“They were an eyesore,” Novotny said.

Square One opened its first recovery clinic in Ashtabula in August 2019, Novotny said.

The company operates separate recovery programs for men and women, as well as inpatient detox, outpatient services, residential services, individual and group counseling and case management.

“We’re expanding rapidly,” Novotny said. “We’re also looking at some places in Pennsylvania as well.”

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.