YOUNGSTOWN Engineering company seeks to buy downtown building
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Kurt Seidler wants to move his small but growing engineering company into the John R. Davis building downtown.
To do that, however, Seidler Engineering and the city downtown redevelopment agency that owns the building will have to wade through a couple of important issues.
Seidler made a presentation Tuesday to the property committee of the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp.
He would spend about $240,000 restoring the building's facade to its original look and renovating the first floor into offices. Windows would cover much of the street level. The second and third floors would remain unfinished.
Seidler, at www.seidlerengineering.com/, is a 6-year-old company with seven employees and an office in the Youngstown Business Incubator. The company does structural, civil and geotechnical engineering. About half its work is local, including several new city schools.
Seidler, the company president, said he wants to keep his operation downtown as it grows.
The committee embraced his plan but questioned Seidler's request to buy the building outright.
CIC has a long-standing, standard six-year lease-to-own deal with rock-bottom rent and building purchase costs. The policy is to assure that a business is successful and grows roots in downtown so CIC doesn't face using tax money to buy back a building should a project fail.
Seidler wasn't comfortable with such a long lease in case CIC wouldn't let him stay once the six years expired. He asked about shortening the deal to a year or two.
Committee members explained that he is guaranteed to get the building as long as he makes the promised renovations and pays the nominal rent on time. They said the agency hasn't shortened any lease deals despite past requests.
Seidler said he needed to look at the lease deal closely and talk more with the agency, and committee members agreed.
Seidler also asked for parking spaces. Suburban offices come with parking as part of the deal, he said.
Committee members said the agency can't tie parking into building leases. Rent and purchase price on buildings is low so businesses can factor in private parking, they said.
If the project happens, Seidler would be the first incubator company to take possession of a downtown building.
It's been a year since anything happened with the Davis building.
Two years ago, CIC signed a lease-to-own deal on the building with Tony Cervone of Innerscope Technical Services. He planned to renovate the building and open H.D. Rider's Rock Cafe, a restaurant and bar with rock 'n' roll and Harley-Davidson themes.
Cervone was self-financing the renovation. He ran into financing and unforeseen construction problems, however, and pushed back the opening date several times. The first estimated opening was the summer of 2000, then March of 2001.
Cervone spent about $28,000 gutting the building but made little other progress. CIC declared the project in default a year ago and took back the building.