Westside Bowl Owners Purchase Former Clark Bar Building

WARREN, Ohio – The owners of Westside Bowl plan to open an art gallery in the building on Youngstown’s West Side that previously housed the Clark Bar.

Members of the Western Reserve Port Authority’s board of directors approved selling the 3143 Mahoning Ave. building to Nate Offerdahl of Unpainted Arizona LLC for $250,000 during their meeting Wednesday morning.

“We have probably one of the most uniquely qualified business owners to tackle this project here,” said Nick Chretien, planning and regional development manager for the port authority.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Anthony Trevena, the port authority’s executive director. 

Having the organization that probably has invested the most in that neighborhood and has been successful “just makes perfect sense,” Trevena said.

Offerdahl and his wife, Jami, took over the former Strikers bowling alley, 2617 Mahoning Ave., in 2018, remaking it as a performance and events venue that attracts national artists and has drawn patrons from 17 states, Offerdahl said. Annual sales for the property have risen from $300,000 in 2017 to $1.3 million in 2018.

“We’ve had great success on the West Side. We want to see the rest of that part of town develop,” Offerdahl said. “It’s a great neighborhood.”

The port authority received $200,000 in American Rescue Plan funds last year from the city of Youngstown to rehabilitate the Mahoning Avenue property, which it had acquired through the Mahoning County Land bank, to put in a vanilla box state for potential redevelopment. 

“We don’t have anything concrete yet, but obviously it’s a mixed-use property and we plan to keep it that way,” Offerdahl said.

The upper level has two 1,300-square-foot apartments, one of which he said he and his wife are considering using. He envisions an art gallery for the 2,600-square-foot ground floor space, which he expects to open in about a year. He has had “preliminary discussions” with owners of the former Soap Gallery in downtown Youngstown but reiterated that nothing is concrete at this point. 

There isn’t a lot of chain activity in the Youngstown portion of the major Mahoning County artery, which “creates a unique opportunity for people to put their stamp on Mahoning Avenue,” according to Deb Flora, executive director of the Mahoning County Land Bank.

“Nate has a sense of what Mahoning Avenue used to be and could be again, which is very city centric and neighborhood centric,” she said.

Youngstown Councilman Mike Ray, whose 4th Ward used to include Westside Bowl and the Clark property before ward lines were redrawn, expressed his enthusiasm about the Offerdahls taking over the former bar.

“They took something that was relatively small and has turned into a major investment in the West Side that is an anchor that folks come to from all over,” Ray said. It demonstrates how investments in recent years such as the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County’s Michael Kusalaba branch, Trex Coffee House and others along Mahoning Avenue play off each other.

“Nate and his wife have put a substantial investment into the West Side with Westside Bowl and were able to recreate themselves, get through the pandemic, and they’re coming out thriving,” Ray said. Hopefully, the project will inspire more redevelopment along the corridor.

During the meeting, Mike Hillman, CEO of FBO Jets, the fixed-base operator at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, reported that ground classes for a commercial flight training program being launched by Eastern Gateway Community College at the airport should begin in February. Enclosed flight simulators that the Vienna Township airport, which the port authority operates, has purchased for the program using federal funds should arrive by March.

The program will dovetail into the accelerated aviation program at Kent State University, he said. Without promotion, the program already has 14 students.

“We’re going to start them at private pilot, which would allow them to take a number of pathways, whether it’s military or moving on with us for flight training. Or they can go into the Kent program,” he said.

The port authority also approved a resolution authorizing a renewed commitment of $25,000 annually for the next three years to the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, which lobbies on behalf of local military assets including the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, which shares facilities with the regional airport, and Camp James A. Garfield in Ravenna.   

David Christener, president of EOMAC, introduced the commission’s new executive director, Josh Prest, who previously worked in former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s office.

“These installations can’t advocate for themselves,” Prest said. “If you look at every defense community across Ohio, you’ll have a specific group that does similar work.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.