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YOUNGSTOWN Vote due on B & amp;O restaurant project



Published: Tue, September 11, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city must take a chance if the B & amp;O is to ever come back, a councilman said.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- James E. Fortune Sr. politely asked some city council colleagues if they would approve the latest proposed B & amp;O Station project.

Then Fortune, D-6th, council's economic development committee chairman, warned them not to send a negative message by failing to approve it.

Still, their answer about approving the plan: Probably not.

When council meets in special session to take up the B & amp;O, probably Wednesday night, six of seven votes will be needed to approve a lease-purchase deal for the old rail station with local businessman William Marsteller. He would rent space to a microbrewery, the Ohio Brewing Co., and a restaurant.

Opposition: On Monday night, Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, said he won't vote to approve the deal. John R. Swierz, D-7th, said he hasn't made up his mind but indicated he doesn't favor the plan, either.

Both said they would rather see the city sell the building outright rather than make a lease-purchase deal.

The city keeps ending up with the building, Hudson said, referring to two past failed efforts to revive the former restaurant.

"It's like Groundhog Day," he said, referring to the 1993 movie about a recurring bad day.

If the plan doesn't get six votes Wednesday, the item will go to the third of three readings at council's Sept. 19 meeting. There, four of seven votes will approve or kill the deal.

Details of deal: Monday, the development committee recommended the deal to the full council by a 2-1 vote. Fortune and Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, supported it. Swierz voted against it.

Fortune and Atkinson said the city can't lose because the developer is pledging to put up $250,000. If the project fails, the city gets the building back with whatever improvements are made plus the difference in cash.

Also, no city money will go into the project. Mayor George M. McKelvey is adamant that nothing more be spent on the building, said Jeffrey L. Chagnot, city development director.

The city spent $2 million on a restoration in 1991 and gave a company $1.2 million in loans, but the restaurant there closed in November 1996.

"We will not spend another nickel on the B & amp;O Station. Period," Chagnot said.

The city must take a chance if the B & amp;O is to ever come back, Fortune said. There are no serious offers to do anything else with the building, he said.

Failing to approve the proposed project sends a seriously negative message to the business community, he said.

"You need to look at the overall consequence and the message you are sending," Fortune said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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