McKelvey requests study on west end

The study would determine costs and time required to prepare a site there.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mayor George M. McKelvey wants to know whether a west end downtown site is even feasible for a civic center.
He asked the civic center board about fleshing out issues surrounding a west end arena site, should a private investor prefer that area.
The arena board responded Thursday by recommending that Gateway Consultants of Cleveland, which developed Jacobs Field and Gund Arena in Cleveland, study the costs and time required for real estate acquisition and site preparation on the west end.
City council decided in May that the project would be built between the Market Street and South Avenue bridges. A private developer with a big check and a west end site in mind, however, must be considered, McKelvey said.
"We have to be open-minded throughout this process," he said.
The city and any developers should know how much time and money a west end site will eat up, he said. Now is the time to explore the potentials -- not after seeking project proposals, he said.
"Have all the available information to the relevant parties before they are asked to present proposals," McKelvey said. "It's essential a developer knows that."
At issue: He wants to know:
UWhether the Western Reserve Transportation Authority bus station on West Federal Street can be bought and what the cost to relocate the terminal would be, including any available federal funding.
UProperty acquisition costs for all needed west end buildings and a realistic timeline.
USite preparation costs, such as demolition, and a timeline.
McKelvey said he's heard estimates of $7 million to $12 million and three to four years to buy and prepare a chunk of the west end.
Neither is appealing, he said, especially the timeline, because the project must be done within a couple of years.
Traficant's stance: U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s repeated insistence last month on a west end site is a factor in resolving the issue, the mayor said.
The congressman, of Poland, D-17th, secured the $26.8 million in arena funding so far. Traficant insists that a hotel deal will fall through and that he will drop any effort to secure more federal money without a west end site.
Board's budget: Robert VanSickle, arena board president, presented an $83,000 board budget for the first half of this year, subject to city council approval. That budget is reduced by $100,000 from an earlier budget because the arena board will now stop using a Cleveland law firm and start using the city law department.
Charles Sammarone, city council president and an arena board member, told the board that it's important to get the experts involved in this project now.
"Before you go any further with this project, you should have the people on board who are going to develop it and manage it. They've been through it before. None of us here has ever built a convocation center. No one in city hall has ever built one," Sammarone said, based on advice from people who were engaged in development of Cleveland's convocation center.
Van Sickle said the arena board would submit this week to city council for approval the contracts between the city and Gateway and Compass Facility Management Inc. of Ames, Iowa, as arena project managers.

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