YOUNGSTOWN Hospital buyer plans renewal
Plans to convert the hospital to an office complex are expected to create as many as 300 jobs.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- New owners of the former Youngstown Osteopathic Hospital are hoping their plans to bring new life to the long-vacant building will be the starting point for a rejuvenation of the city's North Side.
CMD Realty, an investor partnership, will pay $150,000 for the hospital buildings on 8.5 acres. The price is just one-tenth of the $1.5 million the YOH estate was asking when the hospital closed in March 2000.
The partners' bid was the only offer received in U.S Bankruptcy Court in Youngstown Friday, so Judge William Bodoh approved the sale.
Remodeling planned: Chris Tornello, serving as a spokesman for CMD, said the new owners plan to renovate and lease the property as office space to government agencies, health care providers, community service agencies and others.
Developers will remodel the space to suit each tenant, and the new owners expect the project to create as many as 300 jobs, including construction, housekeeping, security, maintenance and groundskeeping.
There's plenty of local precedent for the plan. The former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital in Warren and the former Southside Medical Center in Youngstown have both been renovated and successfully converted into business and office space.
North Side ties: A Youngstown native now living in Liberty, Tornello said the YOH property is his first commercial real estate venture, but he has many residential real estate holdings on the North Side.
Tornello grew up on the North Side, so he has sentimental as well as practical reasons for buying the property.
"The North Side has received more than its share of hard knocks," he said. "We felt somebody had to step in and do something. We can do it, and maybe we'll lead a recovery for the whole area."
On the practical side, Realtor Bill Kutlick added, CMD investors were looking at the property's proximity to highways, Youngstown State University, hospitals and other medical facilities. Kutlick-Platz Realty, a Boardman commercial real estate firm, handled the sale and will be working with the owners to lease the space.
Financial distress: A Youngstown landmark since 1953, YOH filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 1999 but continued to operate while its management attempted to reorganize its debts.
It closed permanently in March, 2000, citing declining admissions and the inability to reach a settlement with striking employees, members of Teamsters Local 377. The closing left 280 workers jobless.
Another bidder, Mahoning County Chemical Dependency Program on Meridian Road, offered $700,000 for YOH in May, but the agency later withdrew its bid.
Possible site: Mahoning County commissioners toured the abandoned hospital about three weeks ago in considering it as a possible site for the county Department of Job and Family Services, but came away uninterested.
Commissioners are looking for a building to consolidate the county's welfare department, which is on Garland Avenue, and child support enforcement agency, which is on Commerce Street.
They liked the hospital building's size, location and parking availability, but were concerned that some parts of the building are not equipped with a sprinkler system, said Commissioner Ed Reese.
Reese said the county's facility management department estimated it would cost about $800,000 to install the necessary sprinklers.
Atty. Bill Schonberg, who represents the YOH estate, said the owners were disappointed that the sale price was so low, but they're glad to have the building sold and think CMD's offer is the best available. He said the estate is spending $10,000 a month on insurance, security and utilities for the building, and the cost will rise in the winter.
For information about leasing space at the former YOH, contact Kutlick-Platz real estate.