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Published: Fri, December 26, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.
  Joseph Grenga

Joseph Grenga and his building at 128 W. Rayen, Youngstown.

Joseph Grenga and his building at 128 W. Rayen, Youngstown.

By Don Shilling

Business owner considers appeal of order to vacate

The city says the owner of the shop near YSU doesn’t have the needed zoning to expand there.

YOUNGSTOWN — Joseph Grenga is considering whether to keep fighting Youngstown State University’s attempt to take his West Rayen Avenue building for a campus expansion project.

The 80-year-old machine shop owner is convinced the city and university have wronged him by opting to take his property via eminent domain, but he wanted to put off a decision until after Christmas.

He said the building is worth fighting for even though he has used it only to store his industrial equipment for the past seven years.

He operates Grenga Machine and Welding Co. about a mile away on the South Side, and he’d like to begin rebuilding lathes, grinders, drill presses and other equipment at the Rayen Avenue site. His other location on Wayne Avenue is so packed with equipment that he doesn’t have room to work on them, he said.

To retain the Rayen Avenue building, he would have to win an appeal of last week’s decision by Magistrate Dennis Sarisky and Judge James C. Evans, both of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Their rulings allowed the city to take the property so Hazel Street could be extended to better connect downtown with the university. The street project is part of the construction of YSU’s new $34 million business school.

Grenga has until Tuesday to appeal.

City officials, however, dispute that Grenga could use the Rayen Avenue building for an expansion of his business, even if he did win the case.

City officials said the property is zoned institutional, but he would need industrial zoning to operate a machine shop or repair machines.

The city’s planning commission is unlikely to approve that zone change, said William D’Avignon, the city’s community development agency director, who runs the planning and zoning department.

An industrial use of the building wouldn’t be in compliance with Youngstown 2010, the city’s development plan, D’Avignon said. The building was used for commercial purposes before Grenga bought it, he said.

“He couldn’t use it as industrial because it was never zoned industrial and was never used as an industrial site,” D’Avignon said. “It was only used for storage, which is permitted there.”

Grenga said he thinks he already has industrial zoning.

On a tour of the building this week with The Vindicator, no electricity or heat was on. In order to navigate his way through the building, Grenga used a flashlight.

In a storage area that is lit with light from windows, Grenga keeps a variety of industrial machines that are lined up tightly next to each other. He said he wants to rebuild and sell some of them and repair others so they could used in his business.

Grenga said he has 10 full-time employees at his South Side machine shop. On a recent visit to the Wayne Avenue building, two employees were fabricating metal spools that Grenga said a customer would use to wind steel into coils.

He said his father, Anthony, started the business in 1933. It’s clear that over the years Grenga has acquired a large number of machines. In addition to a cramped production floor, the business has a large storage room that is packed with a variety of machines designed to cut, shape and drill holes into steel.

Grenga said about half of his company’s revenues come from processing steel products, while the other half is from selling steel rods and shapes to area companies.

To meet his need for more space, Grenga bought the 102-year-old Rayen Avenue building for $95,800 at a sheriff’s sale in 2001. The city offered Grenga $205,000 for the property and has placed that amount in escrow, pending resolution of the case.

Grenga said the offer isn’t enough even though it is more than double what he paid.

He said he mortgaged his Boardman home in order to buy the building and has been paying interest. He also said he has repaired the roof, performed some cement work and painted the area where the machines are stored.

Besides, he just isn’t interested in a sale. In addition to creating an area for rebuilding equipment, he said his plans include putting up a new building in the parking lot and using the building as an office for his company and another owned by a family member.

“I bought it to use it, and I will not give it to YSU,” he said.


XReporter David Skolnick contributed to this story.


1localobserver(13 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Worse yet - they're stealing a man's business property to build a BUSINESS school!!! What a message to send to future B-school students - Whatever you do, don't try to do business in Youngstown!

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2JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

They are giving this guy twice what he paid for only seven years ago for what amounts to a large 100+ year old storage shed that apparently has no electricity or heat. If the majority of people believe that Youngstown needs more large storage sheds sans utilities I believe we've identified the problem.

Also, the fact that he put up his home and is thus paying interest is his problem, not Youngstown's. If I'm 80 and don't even buy green bananas but have a chance to make over $200k sign me up.

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3MyTwoCents(4 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Please, Vindicator report the real facts, this man is crazy and is in no way a victim. GREEDY little pest.

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4The_Turk(8 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

You're 80 years old and have been collecting industrial equipment over the years with the intention of rebuilding and selling it. If you haven't begun moving forward with this "plan" at this point in your life, it's probably not going to happen.

I've been to the shop on the Southside to buy stainless steel. What a dump! It's so packed with stuff that you can barely move without impaling yourself on something let alone actually do any real work. This guy is is an pack rat that incorrectly looks at his collection of archiac manufaturing equipment as "money in the bank"...which it's not.

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5cityguy(109 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Right-If it's not abut the money, how come he keeps bringing up the fact that it is not "enough"? And now he wants to put up another crappy building on the site? If he's so overextended with his mortgage and interest where is that money going to come from?

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6sue(179 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

It seems like he could take the 200k and find another warehouse in Youngstown. God knows there are a lot of empty buildings around town. Expansion of the university is more important than him retaining an old run-down building

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7Stan(9923 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

He didn't grease the palms at city hall. Try to start a business in Youngstown and they will come up with many excuses why you cant if you dont pay. Rampant corruption and they make no excuses for it.

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8gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

I feel bad for this guy. Sounds like Youngstown already had the plans and now are using 'zoning' as a way to kick him out. Notice that this land will be used for YSU's $34 mill expansion project? Don't tell me that when they worked on the plans for this HUGE project that they 'missed' the piece of land they needed was already owned. Now allll of a sudden after 7 years the city claims zoning? YSu and the city wanted this land and they are strong-arming to get it. What a shame. Corruption at it's best.

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9Rusty_Belt(3 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

This Grenga guy is trying to make a real estate gamble pay off big-time. He wants public sympathy to help him make a lot of money.Look in the front windows and all you will see are dusty old desks, copy machines and adding machines. He has orchestrated this charade in order for YSU to dig deep into the taxpayer's pockets so he can make money on the deal.Understand this- if YSU pays him loads of money, it comes from the State. If the State pays him lots of money, it comes from you and the taxes you pay.Has anyone seen employee cars going in and out of the parking lot as they go to and from work there?Take your money and run, Grenga.

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10terrancesarco(41 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

joe did not start this war but ysu did in the summer of aug 05 using decietful tactics from a firm that has long associations with David Sweet, ysu president and morris hunter, ysu urban developer. jay williams wife sonja and his campaign manager works for ysu. rufus hudson the third ward councilman at the time of debate voted for stealing this property, who worked for ysu at that time. do you see any conflict of interests or making monetary gains with your associations with the parties envolved? the pro land and business thieves should read the council ordinances on this matter before they make an uneducated statement on this board. do you think businesses would move into a town that uses eminent domain to pay back their political and friendships favors? why doesn't williams and the city go after mount calvary penecostal church for their involvement in engaging the blight in ytown alias known, as Idora Park or City of God? my name for this economic development project is "land of toxic dump"? is this jay williams image of 2010 allowing a church create a toxic dump on the backs of the tax payers expense? what would the city do if grenga machinery co moves out of the city and this company moves to another city that would offer his company a lucative economic plan while the ytown is left with other empty bldg on the southside to either sell it or demo it?

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11cityguy(109 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

"do you see any conflict of interests or making monetary gains with your associations with the parties envolved?"

"is this jay williams image of 2010 allowing a church create a toxic dump on the backs of the tax payers expense?"

Huh? Dude what are you talking about?

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12JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

"making monetary gains with your associations with the parties envolved"

So you'd rather this old man make more money than have the city help facilitate a worthwhile endeavor for students and citizens...in that case I would have to question your association with said old man.

(I also have no idea what you are talking about. FAIL.)

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13gistol(72 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

metz87, I agree with you, that YSU is being a bully. I also blame Youngstown city for allowing this to happen. This entire area is dying, if not already dead. What message does this end to potential new business coming to town? Sadly, the law allows government to take your property whenever they want. They have to use the land for economic growth and are required to pay you for it. To use this peculiar eminent domain law to take this man's property, legal or not, tells potential business that Youngstown is NOT business friendly. This is another nail in the coffin to the Mahoning Valley. Warren lost 25% of cops & fire this month, Youngstown takes away business property to favor another.. who would want to come here deliberately? Yet all these public officials scratch their heads and wonder why the local economy and population is declining.

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14JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but businesses aren't coming to Youngstown regardless of this particular case. There isn't evidence that I've seen from articles published here that this guy was making any money either. The university, on the other hand, is a legitimate draw to the extent that enrollment increases each year.

What makes Y-town unappealing to businesses? People getting shot in the face in broad daylight, people getting dragged underneath cars, multiple dilapidated homes burning to the ground each week...the lengthy list continues with eminent domain disputes being very close to the bottom.

Progress is not building around 100+ year old warehouses filled with junk, if you got out of Y-town for even a long weekend you might see that.

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15JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

I have my own opinions and very few align with those of the city but this happens to be one instance where we share the same opinion. He'll make over $100k in profit on the property transfer to help solve his storage problem...not exactly being "taken" from him when you consider that fact is it?

I mean, seriously, beyond the sheer sake of argument think big picture here. If you walked up to a random stranger on the street of any normal city in America and laid this story on them (specifically the property owner’s profit, the nature of his “business” and the proposed future use of the land) you would probably hear in reply that the land would be better utilized by the university and the way it is being acquired is totally fair.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Perhaps Youngstown should encourage maintaining century old warehouses without working utilities by marketing itself as “The Salvage Yard of the Rust Belt” and forsake any aspirations to someday be an area better known as a place where one can get a high-quality education.

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16JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Apples to oranges analogies having been cited (Y-town:Alliance) we can agree to disagree.

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17valleyred(1103 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Why do you guys at the Vindicator continue to give this bum press?

Thank God for Eminent Domain!!

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18clayor(281 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Hmm, so this guy is storing his "stuff" until he opens his business, I think I got that right, he can more than double his money by selling, he has a mortgage, wonder who gave him a 100 year loan on a worthless piece of property in the first place. He is 80, so far he is not using whatever he has stored. Maybe in addition to the money he is being offered, if YSU would offer him a full scholarship so he can get his MBA and get that business up and running in another location, he would reconsider.

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19cityguy(109 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

It's a freakin storage facility! No one "works" there and with the money he is making he can easily find another storage space. As far as only listening to YSU's side--all I've seen in the papers and on the news is this guy's side of the story. And come on, a major expansion of the university and cleaning up the area is going to discourage new business?

Sorry, sounds to me like the dude is full of crap--he's just trying to hold out for more money."Grenga said the offer isn’t enough even though it is more than double what he paid."

If it was about the storage space he could easily get another building on the South side closer to his business.

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20JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

In short, yes.

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21Stan(9923 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

If The Vindy posses off YSU down go the presses to make way for more parking! :)

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22scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

I have to agree with Grenga that the offered price is not enough.
1) He bought the property at Sheriff Sale-that means WELL below market value.
2) There is utilities to the site but he has no reason at this time to pay for service to the building
3) He would incur the cost of moving the equipment (even if it is junk) from the building to a storage facility (and pay rent) until another site could be found, probably at a much higher rate than his current payment.
4) The equity in the property would help finance the new building and business startup costs.
5) If the property was zoned "institutional" prior to him buying it what type of business was there before?
6) A $95K mortgage would cost about $800/ month @ 10% interest for 30 yrs (not 100 yrs as someone stated above)
7) I assume taxes are being paid on this building-otherwise the city would have taken it before-so if YSU takes it over, does YSU pay taxes on that vacant land?

YSU and the city are strong arming him pure and simple. Do I think the business will ever get built as Grenga plans-NO, but that doesn't mean he should be kicked out either.

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23clayor(281 comments)posted 7 years, 7 months ago

Come on, Scrooge....this guy can double his investment. He has no plans to move his junk and he has no plan to build another building. Who would give an eighty year old person a 30 year mortgage..that was me who said 100 year, tongue in cheek. I would hope that at this age and stage this man would be thinking about how to enjoy what he has earned over the years, not plotting to get more to take with him.

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24Stan(9923 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

This man wants to enjoy what he has worked for and not have it stolen from him. He should get at least $500,000 because of the location of his building.

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25scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Clayor- ever heard of age discrimination? If the bank DOESN'T give him the 30 yr loan he would OWN the bank.
His estate will satisfy the note when he does pass.
$500K sounds about right Stan. The location is of greatest value to the University so make them pay fair market value-not whatever they think they can squeeze by with. Profit is not the issue here.

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26clayor(281 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Scrooge, I don't know how old you are but I am guessing by your posts, over 50. Do you think you could get a 30 year loan? I don't think so. I still say this guy is going after all he can get, not that I blame him, but at his age which is lucky to have achieved, he should be happy he is still breathing and should be enjoying what he has for as long as he has it, not trying to get more, he is wasting energy.

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27clayor(281 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't think so, Metz, if you have ever known anyone in that age bracket, they have all lived a hard life when they were young, and as they get up there in years, they all turn greedy. I don't know why, but they all of a sudden feel they have finally achieved and grow stingy and greedy. I am speaking of men here, they do not do things on principle. I also think YSU and the city are a lot smarter than he is. I doubt they are out to get him.

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28Stan(9923 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Clayor believes that people should share whatever he wants.

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29terrancesarco(41 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

i wonder how many anti business people spoke to grenga first instead of receiving their info from the vindicator and the half truths press releases that the city offers to the media. pro youngstowners should do their homework first by going the individual(s)for their side of the story. remember what assume mean?

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30scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Clayor, I am not only UNDER 50 but I work in the BANKING BUSINESS. Yes, I do know what I'm talking about-a bank can NOT discriminate on age, religion, color, yada yada. Granted they may find another reason to deny credit but not because of his age.

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