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DOWNTOWN RENOVATIONS Council considers private developers



Published: Mon, July 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Timing has been an issue but extending the deadline shouldn't be a problem, a city official said.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The city will see if any private developers are interested in renovating its downtown annex for the state appeals court.

City council's economic development committee is recommending the idea to the full council.

Council, which has recessed for the summer, is expected to call a special session soon to vote on sending the requests for proposals.

Securing a private developer could accomplish several things for the city besides keeping the 7th District Court of Appeals downtown, said David Bozanich, deputy finance director.

Options: Selling the building would bring in cash. A 1997 appraisal put the building's value at about $625,000.

A sale also would relieve the city of a liability. The old building, at Market and Front streets, costs more to operate than it generates in rent. Jobs brought into the building in addition to the court would add to city income tax revenue, too, Bozanich said.

Now, the only proposal to keep the court in Youngstown is a $3.4 million project by the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. CIC is downtown's development agency and is funded by the city. That plan, however, still would require a city subsidy, which could be a problem.

A major concern has been timing. Appeals court judges have been looking for new space for a couple years. Mahoning County, which provides space to the appeals court, has said it wants the city's answer on the annex by July 31.

Timing: Gary Kubic, county administrator, wasn't available to comment today, but timing shouldn't be a problem, Bozanich said. If fact, the project could move more quickly with the proposals, he said.

The economic development office will create a request for proposals in the next two weeks.

By mid-August the city should have somebody, either a private developer or the CIC, committed to a project, Bozanich said. The county is willing to wait until Sept. 1, he said.

A private developer probably can do the project more efficiently, he said. The city's financial condition is slipping, and borrowing money for the CIC to do the project may be difficult, Bozanich said.

The city's priorities will be plans that meet the county's needs, bring new jobs downtown, provide a good purchase price and provide investment in building improvements, he said.

If there are no takers, the CIC plan remains, Bozanich said.

Alden Chevlen, the agency's executive director, said this morning he wasn't sure what the CIC will do. The agency may consider other financing alternatives and resubmit its proposal, he said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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