Economic Development

WRPA Authorizes $10M in Bonds for Student Housing

WARREN, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority voted Wednesday to issue up to $10 million in revenue bonds to support the construction of a new student-housing project near Youngstown State University and approved an extension to its development agreement with the city of Warren. 

The actions were among several items on a packed agenda for the port authority board of directors, which met at the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center downtown.

The bonds are being issued to finance a portion of the costs associated with Campus Lofts LLC’s four-story complex.The building is under construction on the site of the former St. Vincent DePaul thrift store and Penguin Place buildings at the corner of Wick and Rayen avenues.   

Plans for the building call for 185 beds, with a combination of four-, three- and two-bedroom units, as well as some single-tenant lofts on the top floor. 

The WRPA board also authorized entering into a term sheet with Hallmark Student Housing Youngstown LLC for the development of the third phase of its University Edge complex on Fifth Avenue and to authorize issuance of a sales tax exemption certificate for the project.  

The port authority will negotiate terms for issuing $6 million in bonds for the 40-unit, 161-bed building, said Anthony Trevena, the port authority’s economic development director. Hallmark has already razed structures on the southeast corner of its current complex and plans to begin construction in September. 

“They want to be in for next school year,” Trevena said.  

The term sheet negotiation with Hallmark was one of two the board approved yesterday. It also authorized its economic development staff to negotiate a term sheet to issue bonds to help finance the South Park Square Project, which is being developed by LRC Realty of Akron.  

LRC, which the port authority previously assisted with the development of the YSU Enclave student-housing complex, is working with the owner of the former Kmart site on U.S. Route 224 in Boardman to develop the property. 

A new Starbucks is under construction at the site, where LRC expects to develop about 120,000 square feet of space, reported Gary O’Nesti, special projects director with LRC. The company is working with three potential national tenants for the other units there, he said. 

During the meeting, the port authority approved extending by three years its original two-year agreement with the city of Warren to develop properties the city owns. The agreement permits the city to transfer properties to the port authority, which can directly negotiate with potential developers. 

Under its original agreement, the port authority moved three properties into developers’ hands: the former Warren Scope senior center, where Charbenay’s on the River opened this summer; the former Owen Morgan house in Warren, which the Trumbull County Historical Society is renovating for educational programs and storage; and property on Niles Road to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Trumbull/Ashtabula/Portage District, which is contemplating an expansion. 

The city of Warren approved the extension last month, Trevena said. 

The agreement has been “a catalyst for a lot of momentum and downtown investment,” Mayor Doug Franklin told the port authority board. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls because of the uniqueness of this arrangement.” 

The port authority is looking forward to accomplishing more under the agreement, added John Moliterno, executive director. In addition, the city of Youngstown is reviewing a sample memorandum of understanding for a similar agreement, and he expects to hear from other entities as well, he reported. 

“The transparency between Warren and other cities and the port authority is apparent,” said Port Authority Chairman Marty Loney. 

Loney’s comment was one of a handful made during the meeting regarding the port authority’s transparency in dealing with other entities following a comment by state Rep. Don Manning Monday suggesting that state officials had transparency concerns regarding the port authority’s role in the redevelopment of the former Youngstown Developmental Center. 

Also during the meeting, the board authorized the WRPA to enter into a negotiation with James and Nancy Alderman of Vienna Township to acquire 42.35 acres of land on King Graves Road. The property would be used for a new main gate for the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.  

The proposed $8.8 million new main gate would provide additional security for the air base, said Master Sgt. Robert Barko of the base public affairs office. Funds for the project have been secured. 

The port authority is getting involved because it has greater flexibility to negotiate on pricing than the federal government, Barko said. 

“This project will set a new standard for military construction and force protection” and “build the military value of YARS,” he said. Long-term plans call for adding a new commercial gate on state Route 193. 

Pictured: At the agency’s meeting Wednesday, Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said the city’s agreement with the Western Reserve Port Authority has spurred development in the city

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.