Warren, Trumbull Planning Partner on Reinvestment

WARREN, Ohio – The city of Warren entered into two contracts Wednesday with the Trumbull County Planning Commission. The contracts call for the commission to update and manage implementation of its Community Reinvestment Area and to update the city’s design standards.

“Trumbull County looks forward to helping the city of Warren encourage private sector investment in our county seat. A strong urban core benefits all of Trumbull County,” said Trish Nuskievicz, executive director of the planning commission.

The CRA program enables a community to offer tax incentives on the increased value from improvements to properties within the boundaries of the CRA, typically areas where investment has been discouraged.

“This is a way to encourage development and investment within the appropriate areas of the city of Warren,” said Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, and chairman of the economic development committee.

The first step is to complete a housing survey to determine the CRA’s boundary. The commission expects to complete this project in the fall, Nuskievicz said.

The existing community reinvestment area is  bounded by Dana Street on the north, Chestnut Street to Niles Road SE on the east, Palmyra Road to Tod Avenue on the west, and follows the city boundary to the south. Warren last updated its CRA in 2003.

“I would like to see the new CRA boundary be as large as possible in order to encourage both commercial and residential development throughout the city of Warren,” Mayor Doug Franklin said.

The Trumbull County Planning Commission has been a partner of the city for years, Franklin said. The commission most recently helped Warren secure funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for brownfield assessments at the former St. Joseph’s hospital property, the administration building at the former RG Steel site, the Warren Community Services Building and the Wean Building on North Park Avenue, a first step to cleaning the contaminated sites.

The planning commission recently worked with Liberty Township to establish a 3-square-mile reinvestment area along Belmont Avenue.

The following year, the commission processed three CRA applications for construction of an 87-room Comfort Suites Hotel, the creation of a Dunkin Donuts, and the construction of an office and shop for CR Electric. When completed, these projects are expected to create $8.4 million of total investment and generate 92 construction jobs, 31 full-time jobs, and 43 part-time jobs, Nuskievicz said.

The municipal legislation authorizing update of Warren’s design standards also establishes a design review board. The board will review proposed sign and building improvements within the city’s central business district, which is loosely bounded by Washington Street on the north, Chestnut Street on the east, South Street on the south and Main Street on the west.

The planning commission expects to complete the update in early spring 2017.

The design guidelines were established in the 1980s and haven’t been comprehensively updated since, said Anthony Iannucci Jr., executive director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning. WRAP is the city’s designated agency to create architectural standards for the central business district.

“This update is long overdue. Situations have changed over the last 30 years and we need to address those,” Iannucci said.

The design guidelines are intended to provide guidance to historic building owners in order to protect and enhance Warren’s downtown.

“I have owned a business in downtown Warren for 22 years and lived downtown for 12 years. I think it is important to offer technical assistance to property owners who are looking to make changes to their historic buildings to ensure that it is done in a way that improves our downtown,” said Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward.

Several planning commission staff members have experience in working with historic structures and design guidelines, Nuskievicz noted.

“We support the planning commission in their efforts to improve and strengthen our county seat,” said Dan Polivka, president of the Trumbull County Board of Commissioners. “The planning commission and the city of Warren have worked well as a team over the years. Cooperation between local governments is vital for the region.”

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