Wednesday, December 17, 2003
The proposal relies on the city's paying $450,000 to remove blighted buildings.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- As one downtown building goes up, another is on track for fast approval.
Downtown's redevelopment agency awarded a contract Tuesday to build a $7.1 million government office next to the George V. Voinovich Government Center on West Federal Street.
The Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. also unveiled its proposal to build a $3 million building nearby on West Federal for the 7th District Court of Appeals.
CIC officials are confident that Mahoning County commissioners, who handle appeals-court space, will approve the proposal Thursday.
The moves, if the court project is approved, would mean a $10 million investment in office space on West Federal, downtown's main street.
"That's not bad for a day's work," said Reid Dulberger, a CIC staff member and executive vice president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
Jance Construction of Mentor, the low bidder, received the contract to build the new four-story office. Jance built the neighboring Voinovich, too.
Mahoning County Children Services Board will occupy the top two floors. The state Bureau of Workers' Compensation will be on the second floor. A pedestrian bridge will connect the office to the Voinovich. The ground level will be enclosed parking.
Construction is to start shortly. The building is to be ready by February 2005.
The new appeals court would be across the street and diagonal from the new office building.
The two-story, 13,200-square foot court would occupy the space between the vacant Kress building and First Educators Investment Corp. An empty lot and a few dilapidated CIC-owned buildings sit in between. Those buildings would be demolished.
The financial deal is structured much like the one used to build the Voinovich, Dulberger said.
"There's a model and approach to these which has worked for us," he said.
CIC would borrow all the money to build the court. Mahoning County would lease the space for 30 years. The county could buy the building for a nominal amount after the 30 years.
The court would pay $250,000 annually in rent. The rent would rise 1.5 percent each year. All utilities, janitorial, building maintenance and repairs are included. The court would provide its own security.
Construction would take 12 to 14 months. CIC must start the Children Services building first, so the court project would lag for several months even if approved this week, Dulberger said. The aim is to have the court ready by Jan. 1, 2006, he said.
The appeals court has been considering options, from remaining in the county courthouse to renovating current space, for years.
Removing the former Dial Finance, Lustig's, Connection and Malkoff buildings is estimated at $450,000. Removing asbestos and other hazardous materials is estimated at $275,000. Leveling the buildings is estimated at $175,000.
Removal costs are included in the $3 million project estimate, but Dulberger concedes that the proposed annual lease payments won't cover abatement and razing costs.
Instead, CIC would borrow all the money for the project and rely on the city to contribute $450,000 to pay for building removal, he said.
Dulberger said talks with the mayor and council members leave CIC confident that the city will find a way to provide the money.
Mayor George M. McKelvey said the city is pledging to provide the money -- if it's able.
The city could dedicate a portion of its annual federal funding for several years, he said. Another option is tapping the city's $25 million federal grant that Congress is expected to free up from an arena project for downtown development, he said.
For now, however, city funding isn't involved, he said.
Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, the downtown councilman, and Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, council's buildings and grounds chairman, don't like having the city pay razing costs.
There wasn't much choice in this project, however, they said.
Neither McKelvey, Gillam nor Hudson is concerned that the spot for the proposed appeals court is the same one city officials have talked about for a new city court.
McKelvey said he'd like to see a new municipal court next to the appeals court and create a "justice" block. Another option for a city court is the dilapidated former Master's Tuxedo block, he said.