Economic Development

WRPA OKs Buying Mahoning Ave. Sites for Development

WARREN, Ohio – The board of directors for the Western Reserve Port Authority unanimously approved the acquisition of properties along Mahoning Avenue, where a yet-to-be-named company will develop the site.

The city of Youngstown’s Board of Control approved selling the 12-parcel, 1.5-acre site to the port authority for $1,601.78 at its meeting Jan. 23. The site fronts the corridor at 1586 and 1588 Mahoning Ave.

John Moliterno, executive director of the port authority, declined to give information on the company that will use the site. At last week’s Board of Control meeting, WRPA director of economic development Anthony Trevena said he expected the company to make its announcement in a month or two.

“We’re going to defer to them on an announcement,” Moliterno said. “We can say they’re excited about this project.”

The project will be an important step in the development of Mahoning Avenue, Moliterno said, that could get the ball rolling on other projects.

“You need that first stone to start moving and once it starts, people can see that things are happening,” he said after the port authority’s monthly meeting Thursday. “They can see that they can be successful putting a business on that avenue. It will encourage more people to come to the city.”

WRPA is working with Economic Action Group, which used a $16,000 capacity-building grant from the Raymond John Wean Foundation to commission Novogradac to conduct a commercial property revitalization study. It pegged the Mahoning Avenue corridor as one of the top three in Youngstown for development.

“We’re following the data and making sure our targeted investments line up with it,” said Nick Chretien, program director of Economic Action Group. 

Other corridors in the city have seen development at various stages in recent years, he continued, including a study by Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, the city of Youngstown and Liberty Township to pinpoint opportunities along Belmont Avenue and Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.’s work along Glenwood Avenue.

“And now we’re working on our due diligence to find opportunities along the Mahoning Avenue corridor,” Chretien said.

He also pointed to the work CCA has done along Market Street taking a “clean-and-green” approach that’s focused on beautification efforts along the corridor. Moliterno points to another port authority project: the acquisition of the Chemical Bank building at the corner of Market Street and Midlothian Boulevard. Chemical Bank will move out of the building in the coming months and WRPA will begin work on the building therafter.

“It’s right at the entrance to the city. [The Mahoning Avenue project] gives us another chance to be right on a main artery,” he says. “One of the things that’s important to the mayor and all of us is that the arteries in and out of the city are developed. You have a lot of old development on those streets and a lot of vacant properties. The more we can bring those main arteries back, the sooner we’ll be able to develop up and down, in this case, Mahoning Avenue.”

The port authority’s board of directors also approved a $469,000 contract to Declan Construction of Brookfield for work on the Eastern Gateway Community College Health and Workforce Center – formerly the Harshman Building. That project, set to be completed by the time the new school year starts in August, will add five classrooms to the second floor. 

“This project expanded over the last year after Eastern Gateway became a tenant,” said Randy Partika, project manager and development engineer for Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, the development arm of WRPA. “It was just going to be painting and throwing down carpet, but they need more classrooms. Classrooms affect what we do on the roof. You have to have separate classroom controls. They have more computers running. It’s a lot different mechanical systems we had in mind.”

Related to that project, the board approved a facility improvement bond of $425,000 to fund the work. The difference is due to the additional work that needs to be done following the first phase of the renovation, such as sewage, Trevena said. The remainder of the project will be paid for through cash from the port authority.

WRPA board members approved issuing a bond for up to $24 million for work at South Park Square in Boardman for development at the former Kmart site on U.S. Route 224. There, LRC Realty is building a Starbucks and a four-tenant plaza on outparcels.

“What will happen behind it [on the Kmart building site] is four to five times bigger than this,” Trevena said.

The port authority postponed the election of new board officers and the appointment of committee members. Chairman Ron Klingle and board member Kathleen Kennedy did not attend the meeting, and Klingle requested via email that the vote take place before a full board. The vote will take place at WRPA’s next meeting in February. 

Pictured: The Western Reserve Port Authority approved the acquisition of 12 parcels on or near Mahoning Avenue, including these two buildings at 1586 and 1588 Mahoning Ave.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.