UPSCALE DOWNTOWN Luxury apartments detail heart-of-city location

By Don Shilling

111Momentum is growing even though the $8 million renovation of the downtown building is only halfway completed, said Bill Sperlazza, development project manager for the building owner.

He’s taken about 50 calls from interested people and plans to hold tours once construction is further along.

“We only need 23 people — just 23. It’s not that much,” Sperlazza said.

Construction crews have been working since July to create 23 upscale apartments in what had been a vacant, dilapidated office building on the downtown square. DAS Construction Co. of Cleveland plans to have the work completed by May 29.

Monthly rents will range from $1,400 to $2,300.

Michael Morley, a longtime supporter of downtown, is one of those who has committed to living in the 84-year-old building at Federal and Market streets.

“I think it will be fun and convenient. I look forward to being able to walk to the Chevy Centre, the symphony and the restaurants,” Morley said.

He added that he thinks it is important to support the redevelopment of downtown. Morley, who is an attorney and one of the owners of the Shops at Boardman Park, is the former president of the nonprofit board that oversees much of downtown development and was one of the founders of the Oakland Center for the Arts downtown.

Sperlazza said the apartments are being marketed as upscale units. Each apartment will have at least two baths and two bedrooms, a laundry room and upgraded appliances. The apartments range from 1,215 square feet to 2,057 square feet.

The building also will have a fitness center and a community room for parties.

Plus, the rooms have a view, at least those on the upper floors. Upstairs tenants will have a bird’s-eye view of downtown, plus they will be able to see quite a distance.

“You’re just not going to find this kind of housing anywhere else in downtown Youngstown,” Sperlazza said.

Much work remains to be done before tenants will be able to move in. Drywall has been installed on floors 12 and 13, and crews are now working on 11. Metal framing to support the drywall has been erected on all of the floors.

Mark Gregory, project superintendent for DAS, said the biggest part of the job has been removing what was in the building before. The inside was stripped down to the concrete walls, with interior walls, ceiling tiles and flooring thrown out.

“We won’t even use a wire from the old building,” Sperlazza said. “Water won’t run through a single pipe that was here before.”

The marble walls and floors in the lobby and at the elevator entrance on each floor will be refurbished, however.

Restoration work also has been completed to the exterior, including repairing the terra cotta that was used to shape the outside features of the building.

“If you look outside, you will see 1920s architecture,” said Mike Morrell, project manager for DAS. “Then you come inside, and it will look like 2008.”

Retail shops or a restaurant are planned for the first floor.

Lou Frangos, a Cleveland developer who owns the building, hired DAS for the work because it has rehabilitated several old buildings in Cleveland for residential use.

To renovate the Realty building, Frangos received $3.1 million from federal and state agencies that support the rehabilitation of historic buildings. He also has financing from Key Bank and a no-interest loan from the city. Frangos bought the building for $540,000 in 2000.

The building was erected in 1924 as the home of Realty Guarantee and Trust Co.

Frangos already is planning the renovation of the Wick Building downtown once the Realty building is complete.

Architectural drawings are done, and Frangos and DAS officials have discussed some preliminary budgets, Sperlazza said. He added, however, that there is no timetable for the work. Frangos also owns the Erie Terminal building downtown, which he hopes to develop for residential use.

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