Renovation of Historic Thompson Building Moves a Step Closer

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – The J.C. Thompson Building, an iconic landmark on the Diamond in the city, is another step closer to renovation thanks to historic tax credits.

Mayor Greg Bricker on Wednesday officially announced those who are interested in moving into the building at the corner of Sixth and Market streets when the project is complete.

“Any pictures you see of old-time East Liverpool, this [building] is in it,” Bricker said. “I’m very hopeful that it’s going to be restored to its prior glory.”

Bricker, who chose not to seek re-election and will be replaced in January by Bobby Smith, said the $2.1 million project will be led by Craig Cozza of Cozza Enterprises. Cozza, a Pittsburgh area real estate developer with Guilford Lake roots, renovated and owns Cadence Vault Gastropub on East Fifth Street.

Cozza also owns Pro Bike + Run, and when the project is completed, Cozza intends to put a retail location on the first floor. The chain currently has cycling stores in the Pittsburgh area.

Bricker said Pro Bike + Run fits in well with the project to build a bike and running trail through the city, which is being funded by $2.5 million in additional grant money.

Cozza said his bike business helps people get healthy by finding bikes and shoes that fit right, including electric bikes that make it easier to ride in hilly communities like East Liverpool and Pittsburgh. He said bike trail projects like the one planned from Lisbon to East Liverpool, part of the Lake to River trail, can generate business. Cozza said trails in the Pittsburgh area create other businesses such as restaurants, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds.

True North Medical Billing LLC plans to locate some local offices on the second floor, according to Bricker. Additionally, Bricker said East Liverpool City Hospital has signed a letter of intent to occupy some office space in the building. The top floor would be apartments.

The project was awarded $414,000 last week in state tax credits, and Bricker believes that will lead to federal tax credits as well. The city is still awaiting word on the Transformational Mixed-Use Development tax credit application, which would mean another $217,000 toward the project.

Cozza is putting $300,000 into the project; the Columbiana County Land Bank awarded a $10,000 grant; and the Community Improvement Corporation is offering matching funds of $100,000.

JobsOhio previously awarded the city $600,000 through the Vibrant Community program, which was used as a catalyst to gain additional funding for the building and to determine its condition and whether it was worth saving. Then the city began looking for options to fund the needed revitalization.

“The renovation of the Thompson Building into retail, office and residential space will bring renewed energy to the downtown Diamond in East Liverpool,” said J.P. Nauseef, JobsOhio president and CEO. “With 18 JobsOhio Vibrant Community grants revitalizing historic towns across the state, we and our network partners at Team NEO, the Ohio Department of Development, the city of East Liverpool and already committed business partners look forward to creating a catalyzing effect for downtown where people can invest, live, work and play.”

The plan is for the East Liverpool Community Improvement Corp. eventually to sell the building to Cozza.

“Craig [Cozza] is a proven developer,” Bricker said. “He’s originally from this area, and we’re just very excited and happy. … Craig is all in on this project and is fully committed to East Liverpool.”

Cozza will lead the team of contractors, including those he has had relationships with in the renovation of the restaurant.

Sitting on the Diamond with the upper windows missing or boarded up, the Thompson Building, which first opened in 1892, is in need of repairs. The rounded corner of the building is a historic, architectural feature.

“It’s to the point where something needs to be done to it now or it will need to be torn down,” Cozza said. “It’s to that point where it desperately needs something done to it.”

“The grant really came with perfect timing,” Bricker said. “I don’t know how much longer it could have gone without getting a new roof and new windows. It’s been exposed to the weather for years and years. It’s one of our coolest, most iconic buildings we have down here.”

As when he renovated the former bank into what is now Cadence Vault Gastropub, Cozza hopes this project will lead to additional projects in the city.

“It’s an amazing, iconic building. There are just beautiful buildings in downtown East Liverpool,” Cozza said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.