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Downtown first choice for new site of agency



Published: Sat, April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Social Security office does not intend to move to the suburbs, the director said.

WARREN -- Warren's central business district is the first choice for the Social Security Administration as it begins looking for new quarters.

The administration's trend in recent years has been to have new, one-floor buildings built to specifications.

"We have a commitment to look in the central business district first, then look in the city limits," said Barry Linville, manager of the Warren Social Security office. "It would be very, very rare that we would look outside of the city limits."

The Social Security Administration is advertising for about 12,078 rentable square feet of office space on one floor. Its lease of 8,000 feet on the second floor at 1353 E. Market St. ends in April 2006. About 30 people work for the agency there.

Forum Health has bought that building and will eventually occupy all three floors. It has announced a state-of-the-art radiation oncology department for Trumbull Memorial Hospital, part of its five-year, $102 million expansion in Youngstown and Warren. The building is across East Market from TMH.

Social Security's going outside of Warren would happen only if no desirable sites are available in the city, something Linville said is unlikely given the volume of calls he's received from real estate agents and others with properties.

Why go elsewhere?

"This is the Warren Social Security office, so why would we move to Howland or Cortland or some place like that?" he said. "I don't foresee any problems in finding a great location."

The Social Security Administration started the relocation process a year ago and would have moved regardless of Forum Health's plans. "We don't fit here anymore," Linville said.

The search process involves Social Security's regional office in Chicago, the General Services Administration and its Indiana real estate consultant, and Linville. All involved will look over properties, and owners of those sites deemed acceptable will be asked to put together an offer.

Linville noted that the last few offices that Social Security has relocated in other places went into a "build-to-suit situation" for a secure, single-tenant building.

"They aren't looking to convert an old warehouse," he said. "They want ground-level space because that's more accessible to the public, and we have second-floor space right here" at the current office.

"Space must be located in a prime commercial district with attractive, prestigious surroundings with a prevalence of modern design, tasteful employees and visitors to the space," the government's advertisement said.

The building has to be a modern office-type structure meeting current standards for fire safety and handicap accessibility. It cannot contain asbestos or have any other environmental issues.

Space must be ready for occupancy by November 2006, with a firm 10-year lease.

Submission of locations for inspection are due May 2 to Equis Corp. in Carmel, Ind.

Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp. and Mayor Michael O'Brien said last week that they're working closely to get the Social Security Administration to come back downtown. The office had been located in a building on Franklin Street and Elm Road before moving across from the hospital years ago.

Two other agencies

Also looking for space now is Trumbull County's Job and Family Services/Child Support Enforcement agencies.

Last week, WRAP's board of directors agreed to write letters to Social Security and Job and Family Services, urging them to stay in, or move to, downtown.

Of the two agencies, Job and Family Services is by far the largest with 250 jobs. Two years ago, county commissioners rejected a plan that would have sent the jobs outside of downtown Warren.

The state for years has been pressuring local officials to consolidate offices for different social service agencies in one place to better serve the public. The amount of space required, however, might not be immediately available in downtown Warren without new construction, city and county officials have said.

Trumbull County wants to lease 76,000 to 77,000 square feet of office space and also needs 500 parking spaces.

County commissioners are advertising for leased quarters for what will be known as the "One Stop Center and Child Enforcement" operation. The bids are due by 2 p.m. May 12.

The building must be available for a 10-year lease, with the option to extend it another one to five years.

The lease for Job & amp; Family Services offices at 150 S. Park Ave. expires this year; the department also has a "One Stop Center" at 147 W. Market St. The county's Child Support Enforcement Agency is now at 106 High St. N.W. in the Stone Building. All are being combined.

These operations are funded mostly by the federal government, with some dollars from the state and a small amount from the county.

Jack Gibson of Warren is watching the Social Security and Trumbull County developments. He has a building available on East Market Street, and said he's also looking at parcels where he could build.

"I am working on that," Gibson said. "They're both coming at the same time," he said of the Social Security and One Stop location searches and requests for proposals.

Gibson Real Estate Management Ltd. built the $4 million Gibson Building on East Market Street in 1997. The three-story office building was built to house a Bureau of Workers' Compensation office. The 39,000-square-foot building is now mostly empty because the BWC moved its employees to Youngstown in a cost-saving measure.

Thomas Mahoney, Job and Family Services director, has said his agency's large space needs would not necessarily exclude the Gibson building, which could add floors.




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