YBI Eyes Building Acquisition, Renovation Projects

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Business Incubator is preparing to embark on a trio of capital projects, including a major expansion of its downtown campus.

YBI officials have their eyes on acquiring the Vindicator Printing Co. building at 107 Vindicator Square, just across from Tech Block Building #5, 252 W. Boardman St., Vindicator Printing’s former home, which is in line for a $2.4 million renovation.

And a $1.5 million capital campaign is under way for renovations at YBI’s main building, 241 W. Federal St., which hasn’t seen much more than cosmetic upgrades since the former Reichart’s Furniture building was renovated in the 1990s to house the incubator. 

“We are out of space,” said Heidi Ruby, YBI’s vice president of operations.

YBI completed a $35 million request to the state of Ohio on Thursday to build a defense and aerospace innovation hub around additive manufacturing applications, much of which would go toward renovating the vacant Vindicator building, according to Barb Ewing, YBI’s CEO. Funds for the project also were requested as part of the joint application for $155.7 million from the Appalachian Community Grant Program filed in December. 

The Vindicator Printing Co. building at 107 Vindicator Square.

YBI has “a philosophical agreement” to acquire the building, though details remain to be finalized, Ewing said. YBI already has two companies that need to move into the space because they need additional room to accommodate the machines they are working on.

“What we are looking at right now is the possibility of creating four distinct manufacturing spaces,” Ewing said. Redevelopment of the top floor of the building, where the offices were, would be part of a long-term strategy and dependent on how much funding YBI is able to secure.

“We absolutely need it,” Ruby said. “That building being where it is and where it sits in proximity to the rest of our campus is perfect space for us.”

Advertisements for bids are being published this weekend for renovations at Tech Block Building #5, which YBI acquired from Vindicator Printing in 2015 for $654,500. Needed work at that building includes repairing the freight elevator, replacing its roof and façade upgrades, Ewing said.

“The bulk of the funding is going to build out the office space on the second and third floors,” she continued. In addition, construction is going to be done in the basement for a classroom or other flexible space. A mezzanine also will be constructed to accommodate JuggerBot 3D’s growth. 

“We’re already out of space as we’re catching up with the renovation,” said John Reed, chief information officer and vice president of information technology at Aim Transportation Solutions in Girard and chairman of YBI’s board of directors.

Tech Block Building #5 at 252 W. Boardman St.

Ewing said because of the focus on growth, YBI hasn’t reinvested in the 241 W. Federal building. When the former furniture store building was redeveloped in the 1990s, design standards were “very different,” resulting in space that “wasn’t fully optimized,” she said. 

A “slight renovation” was done to the first floor in 2012 but was mostly cosmetic, Ruby said.  

“It’s a rethinking of the entire building to make the space just more functional and allow us to maximize it because it’s pretty well full at this point, too,” Ewing said. “There are definitely ways that we can improve the layout.”

Planned improvements include creating co-working space and upgrading the conference room to better accommodate events. Also, some of the offices lack lights and exterior or interior windows. Funders of the renovation include the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners, which committed $250,000 to the project.    

Reed is pleased with the incubator’s continued progress and expansion. Without the community investments made in previous years, YBI tenants America Makes and Steelite International wouldn’t be downtown.

“That’s really what’s given us the foundation for the future – to continue to build out that space and not have to go into the suburbs,” he said. “We’re trying to do as much downtown as we can before we even grow past that.” 

Pictured at top: YBI’s main building at 241 W. Federal St.

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