Warren Launches Commercial Demolition Program

WARREN, Ohio – Mayor Doug Franklin occasionally had to compete with heavy demolition machinery at work behind him as he spoke Tuesday morning to reporters and others who attended a news conference on U.S. Route 422.

He didn’t seem to mind. “That’s the sound of progress,” he remarked. “That’s a good thing.”

On Youngstown Road SE, a crew from M&M Excavating Inc., Vienna Township, began taking down the building that once housed Charlie’s Beer 7 Wine Inc., a structure that Franklin said has been vacant a decade.

The building – which encompassed 2410, 2414 and 2416 Youngstown Road SE – is one of eight the city contracted to address. It also is the first of 11 commercial structures, most along major corridors, Warren will take down over the next four months spending $115,778 in Community Development Block Grant funds it has accumulated over the years.

M&M and Siegel Excavating LLC, New Castle, Pa., are performing demolition and asbestos abatement work at the sites.

“We’ve done quite a few residential [properties] already and the Trumbull County Land Bank is securing funds to do residential only,” said Lori Lemasters, Warren grants coordinator in the community development department. “So we thought, let’s try to get some of these commercial ones because there’s no other funding out there for them.”

“This is part of a strategic plan to improve our corridors coming into the city on those routes that have high traffic counts,” Franklin said.

Seven properties are along major arteries while four are commercial structures in neighborhoods, Lemasters said. Sites were identified by city building official Christopher Taneyhill and selected based on blight in the neighborhood and safety of neighboring properties.

The work represents the first commercial demolitions by community development since Lemasters joined the department in 2009, she said.

Demolition of the property on Youngstown Road — for which M&M is paid $16,988 — is important because it will be followed by a $4 million upgrade to U.S. Route 422 from Ridge Road to Laird Avenue, Franklin said.

Because of the scope of work, which includes sidewalks curbs and resurfacing the road, the project will stretch over two construction seasons, ideally being finished next summer, he said. A combination of federal and state grants is paying for the improvements.

The demolition contractors each have 120 days from receipt of their notices to complete the work. M&M received its notice last week, and Siegel, in the last stages of coming to terms with the city, should get its notice in about two weeks, Lemasters said.

Once the site is cleared, it remains under its current ownership, but the city will place a lien on the property for the cost of the demolition and abatement, along with soft costs associated with the work, she said. Should the city succeed in collecting those moneys, they could be used to demolish other dilapidated commercial structures.

“Typically, the property owners haven’t been seen in years, and their property taxes are delinquent to a high level,” she continued. “The odds of getting anything back are between slim and none. But we do attempt to do that. We definitely put the liens on.”

Warren has encouraged owners of blighted properties to take them down, Franklin said. Among them are apartment buildings on Parkman Road and a plaza on West Market Street. “That took a lot of legal arm-twisting,” he said.

The city will actively market the cleared sites once the work is complete, the mayor said. One hope is to attract supermarkets that could address food deserts within the city.

“We’d love to have a Rulli Brothers or a Trader Joe’s, something that has fresh food opportunities,” said Denise Rising, community outreach coordinator with Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

Pictured: Lori Lemasters, city grants coordinator, and Mayor Doug Franklin.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.