Economic Development

WRPA Purchases West Side Sites for Development Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A potential economic development project on a 1.5-acre site on the West Side represents just one step in plans to redevelop key local corridors.

City officials and representatives of the Western Reserve Port Authority are tight-lipped about the project, which they caution is in its early stages.

At its meeting Thursday, the city’s Board of Control approved selling 12 parcels, which include buildings and vacant lots to the west of Casa Ramirez on Mahoning Avenue, from the city’s land bank to the port authority for $1,601.78.

The port authority is “helping us with an economic development project,” confirmed Nikki Posterli, chief of staff to Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and director of the city’s department of community planning and economic development. She declined to disclose the nature of the project.

“I just want to make sure that I’m careful we don’t put the cart before the horse,” she said.

“We think highly of the owners of the company and what they want to do with the property,” John Moliterno, executive director of the port authority, said. “It’d be unfair for us to make that kind of announcement. That’s their announcement to make.”

Anthony Trevena, the port authority’s director of economic development, was similarly reluctant to share details but expected an announcement within a month or two.

“We can’t prepare this property for development without possession, without some control,” he said. The port authority’s board of directors will vote next Thursday on a resolution authorizing Moliterno to sign to take possession of the property. “Once the board takes possession, we can begin serious discussions with the developer.”

The port authority will provide whatever services are needed for the company to bring the project to fruition, Moliterno said.

The site isn’t one the port authority is worried about having to develop, whether with the company now in discussions for it or another entity. “It’s a great property. It’s a great neighborhood. It’s a great location,” Trevena said.

A Commercial Property Revitalization – or CPR – study prepared by Novogradac, a nationwide professional services firm, with assistance from Economic Action Group, identified Mahoning Avenue as one of the top three commercial corridors in Youngstown for development potential. The study based that assessment on factors including high traffic count, high walkability, proximity to federal Opportunity Zones and high diversity of commercial uses.

The Raymond John Wean Foundation provided EAG and its partners with a $16,000 capacity-building grant that it used to pay for the CPR study, Nick Chretien, EAG program director, said. Partners in the CPR study also include the port authority, the cities of Youngstown and Warren, land bank programs in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Youngstown State University, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and Boardman Township.

“Even beyond just this property, there’s numerous vacant or unutilized properties” along Mahoning Avenue that entities like the city, the land banks, YNDC and Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association have identified as sites for future development, Trevena said.

Additionally, the port authority is preparing to take control of another property on one of the city’s key corridors. Trevena said he was expecting to hear any time yesterday that the transfer of Chemical Bank’s former Newport Branch building, 3900 Market St., would be completed. The bank is donating the building and its three-acre plot to the port authority for redevelopment.

“We’re still in the planning/development stages, but eventually there will be an announcement there. We’re exploring all of our options with our partners, looking at their suggestions,” Trevena said.

“Quite frankly, you look at the needs of the community,” he continued. “What are the things that help make a community, a neighborhood, more accessible, safer, more well lit, all of those things, and how do we take abandoned and blighted property and turn it into productive use that betters that community? That’s what this is all about.”

Pictured: Youngstown Board of Control approved selling 12 parcels, including buildings and vacant lots to the west of Casa Ramirez on Mahoning Avenue, to the Western Reserve Port Authority for corridor redevelopment.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.