Stambaugh Auditorium Restoration Project Begins

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A $4.1 millon restoration project intended to revive the original majesty of Stambaugh Auditorium began Monday with a groundbreaking ceremony.

The landmark building’s monumental staircase and promenade, which front Fifth Avenue, will be replaced. The project will also add ramps from the garden along the side of the building to the promenade to improve handicapped accessibility.

For the first time in the 95-year-old building’s history, the exterior will be cleaned to remove the residue of black soot left behind by the area’s former steel mills. In addition, exterior lighting will be added.

“It’ll look similar to what it did before,” said Matt Pagac, chief executive and operating officer of Stambaugh Auditorium. “This is really a restoration project. It’s not building something that looks different. The idea here is to maintain the historical look of the facilities, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

JoAnn Stock, Stambaugh CEO, and Mark Gasser, board president, join Matt Pagac who addresses those gathered for Monday’s groundbreaking.

To date, $3.25 million has been raised to fund this project, says Stambaugh chief development officer JoAnn Stock.

The Youngstown Foundation contributed $750,000; the Frank and Pearl Gelbman Foundation, the Ward Beecher and Florence Simon Beecher Foundation and the Hynes-Finnegan Foundation each donated $250,000; the John S. and Doris M. Andrews Memorial Fund of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley awarded the project $150,000; $60,000 came from the J. Ford Crandall Foundation; and the Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation contributed another $50,000.

“That is the generosity of the Mahoning Valley,” Stock said.

In addition, state Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, and Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, collaborated to secure $1.35 million for the project through the Ohio Capital Budget appropriation. They were part of a group of elected officials, contractors and supporters who took part in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

“We need to champion the causes that we have here in our community,” Lepore-Hagan said. “ We’re far away from what’s happening in Columbus and sometimes people forget that we really started a lot of the investments in this entire state. We were able to build these structures that are unbelievable and incomparable. You cannot replace buildings like this.”

Architect and project manager Denise Holt of the GPD Group recognized local architects and engineers as part of this project. She started working on this project in 2012, quickly discovering that the existing stairs on the upper level were unrepairable. Long-buried items such as old comics were unearthed between the limestones. The upper level stones will be salvaged, cleaned and reused on the bottom part of the stairs, while the rest of the stairs and the promenade will be new.

Pagac said bids came in low enough to enable the cleaning and repointing of the entire outside of the building.

Joe DeSalvo of general contractor DeSalvo Construction, Hubbard, is overseeing the project. DeSalvo said he was able to purchase contstruction materials at reasonable prices in the early spring – before the prices started to skyrocket.

“We got in right under the wire with our ability to avoid some of these cost impacts,” DeSalvo said.

A snow-melting system will be installed under parts of the stairs and promenade to extend the longevity of the surface, he added. Salt will not be necessary to melt ice and snow.

Pagac expects the project to be completed by year-end. There may be some landscaping work in the front lawn that will need to be completed next spring.

The front exterior space of Stambaugh Auditorium will not only once again be a grand entrance, but a gathering space for events as it was in the 1930s and 40s, he added.

Two flagpoles will be installed on the site, including one on the north end that has been missing for at least 50 years.

Stambaugh can be seen from I-680 approaching downtown from the south side, but is dim at night. That will change once the new lighting is installed, which will include spotlights and color controls for use during special events.

“It will literally shine at night,” Pagac said. “It’ll be part of the skyline from downtown.”

Pictured at top: Among those in attendance for Monday’s groundbreaking of the $4.1 million capital project at Stambaugh Auditorium were Joe DeSalvo, JoAnn Stock, Mark Gasser, Denise Holt, Denise Bayer, Michele Lepore-Hagan, Cheryl McArthur, Matt Pagac and Bill Conti.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.