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Realty rises to reality

Published: Thu, August 20, 2009 @ 12:01 a.m.
  Realty Tower tour

Bill Sperlazza, Development Project Manager for the Frangos Group, gives a tour of the nearly-completed Realty Tower in downtown Youngstown.

Bill Sperlazza, Development Project Manager for the Frangos Group, gives a tour of the nearly-completed Realty Tower in downtown Youngstown.

  Realty Tour panorama

If this project succeeds, it would lead to other upscale housing downtown, the mayor says.



YOUNGSTOWN — The Realty Tower Apartments has “the potential to be a transformational project for downtown,” Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams says.

The mayor mentioned the 23-unit upscale apartment complex project, expected to be finished by Sept. 1, in the same breath as the Covelli Centre and the reopening of Federal Plaza.

“This is in that league” when talking about important projects that have led to the revitalization of downtown Youngstown, Williams said.

Unlike the Covelli Centre, opened in late 2005, and the reopening of Federal Plaza in late 2004, most of the $8.4 million expense for Realty is coming from a private investor.

The Frangos Group, run by Louis Frangos of Cleveland, will receive $3.41 million in federal and state funding for the rehabilitation of the historic structure sometime after it opens.

Besides a $2 million loan given to Frangos from the city, which must be repaid next month, the company has footed the entire bill for the project so far.

These are tough economic times, but Williams said he’s hopeful this project will succeed.

“We’re not fooling ourselves with the challenges of the economic environment,” he said. “It’s a tough economic and housing market. But there are people out there with the means” to afford Realty’s rent, “who want to live downtown.”

The building, at 47 Central Federal Street in the heart of downtown, has 23 apartments ranging from 1,215 to 2,057 square feet. Rent will range from $1,400 to $2,300 a month.

Two are rented.

“This is part of what’s going on downtown,” said Bill Sperlazza, development project manager for the Frangos Group. “This is a huge part of what’s happening. For downtown Youngstown to go in the right direction, people will want to live down here. This is an important part of the downtown picture.”

While a new concept in Youngstown, turning older vacant buildings into upscale housing facilities has occurred nationwide “as a tool to revitalize downtowns,” said Thomas Finnerty, associate director of Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban Studies.

“Will it succeed here? It will succeed if those who work in downtown want to live in downtown,” Finnerty said. “There is a lot more to do downtown than in years past. Downtown is developing a life. That will help some people decide to live downtown.”

If that works, the success of downtown businesses and housing will feed off each other, Finnerty said.

“With people living downtown, there will be a need for a grocery store,” he said.

Also, if Realty proves to be a success it would lead to other upscale apartment projects in the city’s downtown, Williams and Finnerty said.

“There is a demand for downtown living,” Williams said.

But the future development of downtown housing isn’t based solely on the success or failure of Realty, the mayor said.

“You can’t go that far because of the current economy,” he said.

Realty will be the first upscale housing complex in the city’s downtown.

But there already are a few people living downtown in large, upscale apartments.

Among them is Richard Mills, president of the Ohio One Corp., which owns five downtown buildings.

Mills has lived on the top floor of the four-story Rica Building on Champion Street since 1992. His company owns the building.

“I was living down here before it was chic,” Mills said. “The major thing that irks me is downtown is perceived as unsafe and it’s untrue. It’s safe. I’ve never been robbed.”

Even though Ohio One doesn’t rent space for living downtown, Mills said he gets about 2 to 3 calls a month from people asking if he has apartment space.

Mills expects Realty to be a “great success.”

“Downtown living has been slow coming, but a lot of things in Youngstown are slow in developing,” he said. “No one before Frangos has taken the chance. I think it’s the beginning of downtown housing in Youngstown. There is definitely a market for it. [Living downtown has] certainly worked well for me.”

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber is having an after-hours business mixer behind Realty from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today. The event will include guided tours of the building.

Tickets are $20 for chamber members and $25 for others.


SEE ALSO:Historic YW to undergo renovations.


1Ytownboy(142 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

You could by a condo in Canfield and you mortgage payments would be less than some of these rents.

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2valleyred(1103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Looks great, but those rents are high... They should have stuck with something a little less fancy and a little bit more affordable.

Now is NOT the time for apartments with such high rents!

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3ts1227(137 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Actually, those prices are right in line for a multiple bedroom/person apartment in the real world. It'll never fly in an area where property values have fallen below the basement though. Upscale and Youngstown just don't mix.

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4tkbk04(2 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I just don't think this is going to work. I now live in New York City and there is nothing I would want to see more than Youngstown come back to life and it has a little but putting apartments in downtown won't do it. Also at those prices why would you live downtown where nothing is close to you. You would still need a car so if there is no parking garage you have to find parking or park outside. I have a 3 bedroom apartment in a great area of Brooklyn for 2,300 a month and I have everything I need right around me. Also if you have a family you would have to send your kids to private school or they go to Youngstown city schools.

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5teddybear6(40 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Thanks Mr.Frangos for appealing to the "Rich" in this valley, instead of just the "mainstream". With all the unemployment and foreclosures in the area, good luck!!

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6michael(33 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

yay gentrification!

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7Ytownboy(142 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

This kind of thing is part of the 'downtown island' mentality. Where upscale shops, apartments, and convention centers are built while the larger city decays and crime runs rampant. This is of course designed to attract folks from the suburbs to come spend money and will have no effect on the vast majority of city dwellers and their substantial problems.

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8disconnect(1 comment)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I grew up in youngstown and left in the late 90's, now I live in brooklyn and pay less than that to live in a neighborhood with far more services (grocery stores/public transit etc.) I get what they're trying to do, but the truth is that the demographic for this kind of living in youngstown is really limited and the wrong kind of thinking for downtown. If gentrification is what they are looking for, then they need to appeal to the people who have been hanging out downtown for the last decade, not doctors and lawyers.

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9username_already_exists(5 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

"With people living downtown, there will be a need for a grocery store."

That is hilarious, there are already several hundred people living downtown and although they are not upscale, I'm pretty sure even the old, crazy, disabled and poor need to eat (and the government supplies them with sweet sweet foodstamps!).

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10username_already_exists(5 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

The absurdity of this development fills me with joy, and I have been chuckling all day since I read this article. The reason people are willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money to live in urban centers is to participate in a lively cultural/social scene. I can't imagine anyone expects to find that in Youngstown. Are we certain this isn't just another way for the owner to get development grants and gain a tax write off?

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11AceMarketing101(11 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

As a study in marketing, it's quite a challenge. There needs to be amenities close by and there currently is none. For a fiscally responsible person, rent should be about 1/4 of your income. At the median range that would mean you should be making $86,400 dollars a year to live there. Even at the cheapest, you would need to be making $57,600 dollars a year to be fiscally responsible. I believe they will be hard pressed to find 21 more tenants making that kind of money that wants to live in downtown Youngstown at the moment.

I do NOT agree that there is not a re-birthing of downtown, with many restaurants as the first step, hopefully retail and grocery wont be too far behind. Username Already Exists, must be someone who does not go downtown, or has not been there in a long time. I personally have gone to over 15 events downtown over the Summer, and enjoyed most every one.

Back to marketing 101, they could rent those apartments with some creativity. Not to the average Joe, but to Doctors and Judges and Lawyers who live out of the area, For Larger business who fly in clients or work with people out of town such as banks, big industrial, etc. The economy is not good in Youngstown, but that doesnt mean there arent people who live and work here without means and money. That is myopic view of the situation.

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12ohiostatejeff(2 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

$1400 is great, if you live in DC or NYC but will not fly in Youngstown!

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13janeyblue(227 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

stupid who wants to live downtown?

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14YSUgrad2004(5 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Your kidding right? I own a 3 bedroom bi-level in the country $790 per month taxes and insurance included. Biggest crime last year was kids soaping the windows on halloween! The gunshots come from the sportsmans club. Why would I move downtown and rent-not own for twice as much $$$$$.
How about Wendy Webb-Jay Williams and the school board and the city counsel members move in there.
Just a thought.
Police and Fire are moving out of town as well.
What ever happened to Wick neighbors and reviving Smokey Hollow? The were going to have a grocery store and drug store in the neighborhood.
"If you build it - no one will come."

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15beinghonest(22 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

These are not upscale. I don't know why he put down carpet and not hardwood or tile. Formica Counter tops and he didn't expose brick exterior walls. No creativity and without some "upscale" amenities he will never get these prices. Looks like any other apartment in the area.

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16city_resident(528 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I would like living downtown janeyblue. But I agree with beinghonest that these places don't have the level of finish that would be appropriate for the rents being asked.

Check out the Park Building on Cleveland's Public Square that was renovated into condos:

Just from the one picture of the couple, I can see nice woodwork, built-in shelves, french doors, etc. And these places also begin "in the 200,000's"

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17steelers6(13 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Just makes no since to me. Who in the heck would pay $1400 a month in rent to live downtown Youngstown, when u can BUY a beautiful home for less than that in a much better area.

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18steelers6(13 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Oh I get it. Diddy and MTV are gonna be filming making the band in youngstown, and this is where the potential band members will be staying.

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19BigRiverJoao(2 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Ode to the Dark Tower:

Friends look to the west,

The setting sun smiles

Reminding us of times not so long ago.

A tower rose in the center of town.

Strong and tall, proud and radiant,

A likeness to the people

Whose hands had crafted it.

Through the power of history

lives were shaped and dreams achieved

Banners flew of different kings

& Skies opened up above

Families and friends gathered together

Celebration and defeat, Beginnings and endings

Markings painted the inside

Machines and space, sound and silence

Caverns and hieroglyphics

Secret keys light up the night

Ghosts of different times embraced

The new order of the day

Time, as many would say, had passed on,

But the tower stood tall.

As defiant as the morning sunrise

Reaching over the valley

A beacon that never sleeps

Only to remind us that

Banged and broken, the tower endures

Through the souls that remember.

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20OldFashionedMama(77 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Beinghonest, I totally agree. We rented a condo in Huntington Woods a few years back that was nicer than these new apartments, and MUCH cheaper. The house we just bought dates from the 40's, has gorgeous oak hardwood throughout, hardwood laminate in the kitchen, a beautiful and artfully tiled bathroom, poplar trim and doors...obviously I LOVE our house. Our mortgage is nowhere near the price of those apartments, and we have a fully fenced backyard and a generously sized front yard. But really, carpet in an "upscale" apartment??? Anyway, I do hope that Realty succeeds. Youngstown needs good things to happen.

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21Education_Voter(1173 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Having looked at the apartments, I must say that the view does compensate for the choice of finishing elements in decorating. The view is spectacular, taking in downtown, but also a good part of the surrounding valley.

There are nice decks and a wide sidewalk below with flowers, much cleaner than the sidewalks in Cleveland or New York.

There is a parking deck just across the street on the north of the building, and another across the street behind it. The parking lot itself is enclosed with a nice brick wall, although it should also offer some cover.
There is a workout room included, although the Y.M.C.A. is on the next block.

I think it would be a great place for Y.S.U. professors to live.

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22steelerman09(111 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Anyone who writes more than one paragraph about this is wasting everyones eye-power. One thing is sure....$1200-$1400 to start is a joke. Nobody will live there and if they do, they will not be able to make those payments after a few months. With home prices where they are, $1200-$1400 could get you something WAY better than these apartments!!!! Have fun lugging your furniture and everything else up the elevator, "tenants".

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23One_Who_Stayed(240 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

This thread is just commical.

Here's all these people who have a grand total of ZERO experience doing something like this, yacking on about how this Cleveland Businessman who actually has done things like this many times, is going to fail and doesnt know what he's doing. . .

Yeah - lets listen to and take the advice of all these arm-chair property developers and weekend warrior business folk. Clearly they know much more than someone who does this for a living. Yeah - this guy got wealthy by doing stupid things and throwing his money away on projects that are obvious failures.

You morons might want to try to take a chance or create something unique sometime rather than sitting comfortably on the sidelines blathering on about someone who does try. Who knows - maybe you might wind up rich and then can throw away your money on a stupid project.

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24timOthy(802 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

The dream keeps going ! You better wake up Williams and Y-Town your having a nightmare ! Who in there right mind would want to live in Downtown . Maybe if that deal is done with Girard people can watch the construction and then inhale the pollution or exhaust from Star Steel. It sounds so exciting, but some times when Dreaming you here sounds. The sound I hear is what a waste of money !

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25AtownParent(565 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Do you get a free parking space with this apartment? Where?

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26ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Seriously, are we "arm-chair property developers" or are we just saying what it really is? I've been looking for a home for a year now and in my travels never heard of or even considered living in Youngstown. Let alone live there spending $1300-2400 in RENT! Not making a house payment on something I will eventually own, IN RENT!

Call it was it is, a mistake. Here's the list...

1) Thinking anyone in their right mind would live in Youngstown.
2) Pay $1300-$2400 to live there.
3) Send their kids to Younstown schools that are now academically in danger.
4) Live in an apartment that looks like any condo in Poland or Canfield.
5) Live in the Realty Towers where there are no services like grocery stores, drug stores.
6) Think someone will move from areas like Poland and Canfield so they can do what? Live near a job in Youngstown?

My prediction, after a couple years when half the building continues to be vacant, the apartments will become low rent housing, fall into disrepair, and my children will be reading in the paper that they'll either finally be tearing the building down or the city will be asking for more money so they can rebuild.

Good luck on the Smokey Hollow project. There's another winner of an idea.

Someone, please tell me what these projects are really going to do for a financially failing soon to be deserted city where the average income is $30,0000 at best.

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27ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

If anybody is waiting to capitalize on picking up pieces in Youngstown, you'll have a long wait. It's not gonna happen in our lifetime.

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28ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I can understand that reasoning for an area that has a future like a Cleveland or Pittsburgh, but Youngstown? What would an investor have to look forward to by buying properties here? When you drop a pebble in water the ripples keep going out. That is the same for the population of Youngstown. They go out to Boardman, Liberty, and Austintown. And as long as the problems follow, the population will continue to go out further. Drive out and see all the developements springing up on the outskirts of Canfield, Poland and southern Boardman. I could see in this day buying property cheap there but not in Y-town.

A company can move into downtown bringing 1,000 jobs. Does anybody really think most of the employees would live in Youngstown? You have city workers now trying to fight to live out of the city. And succeeding.

Finally, let's call it what it is. People want to feel safe. Want to live in a safe enviroment, have their children go to a good school. People want convenience. They want to be able to go to the grocery store in five minutes. They want to shop in a store where you don't have to wait in line behind the single mom who is tugging five rowdy kids pulling out her foodstamps. Youngstown doesn't offer any of this.

Trying to repopulate the city by building apartments, condos, and housing (Smokey Hollow project), is an expensive mistake. One that I am happy not to be a part of, but sad to see the money wasted.

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29city_resident(528 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

The only reason the city and neighboring suburs are in the shape they're in, is becuase of the continued sprawl. Anything to reverse that trend is a good thing for the city AND the suburbs. If this trend doesn't reverse, the city and suburbs will continue to decline.

I wonder why Cleveland has one of the fastest growning downtown residential populations in the state? They generally have more crime than Youngstown, and their schools are just about as bad.(for all intents and purposes)

When I was considering moving to downtown Cleveland 10 years ago, there weren't any of the conveniences you speak of. But as the population continued to grow, now there are. So, there is some truth to the expression "build it and they will come."

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30ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

One reason why downtown Cleveland has a draw for a population is because of it's sports. Three major stadiums. Remember when the Cavs used to play in Richfield? That was built in the middle of nowhere. The Richfield Coliseum was perfect for everyone in Youngstown and Akron. You could attend NBA games and concerts and be in and out of the area in minutes but it was bad for Cleveland business. When they brought the Cavs and concerts back to the city area businesses profitted. Cleveland also has the lake area, the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, a major museum, a major airport, not to mention a bigger population base, a laundry list of reasons why it's easier to see a rebuilding of that city.

Basically, comparing Cleveland with an est. population of 400,000 - 500,000 in city 2,000,000 in the surrounding area to Youngstown 70,000 in city est. 600,000 in the surrounding area is comparing a cherry to an apple. What works there will not work here.

I do agree with you that Youngstowns major problem is the sprawl. And I can see the decline make its way up Mahoning Ave. and Market Street pushing those residents further out (my pebble in the pond analogy). But Youngstown does not have the finances nor the mindset to change any of this. When Youngstown was in it's heyday it enjoyed being called crime city USA. It was proud of it. Look where that got it. Taken advantage of by people who wanted a city position so they can "get their cut". A rusted hole in the wall that shouldn't be worthy of being mentioned on a map. Filled with people who think the steel mills are coming back and others sitting on their behinds collecting a government check. Youngstown named their team the Steelhounds! The mills shut down 30 yrs ago! Wake up.

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31ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

You call it negativity, I call it realism. Look to the past and you'll see there is no solution. Youngstown started as a coal mining town and grew from there. From coal it went to steel. All along gaining a population in a time when walking was your best transportation so housing grew around the mills and the city. My family being one. Now Y-town has no jobs and no need for people to walk when you can get anywhere in 20 mins. by car.

As for a solution, I never offered one. I do have an opinion. And that is that spending millions of dollars on expensive housing is not an answer.

Perhaps when I see a fully occupied Realty tower, a tower that can sustain itself for more than a year or two, I'll change my mind.

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32ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

So, I assume we'll be seeing your change of address to the Towers soon?

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33ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I applaud you passion and desire. Renovating a historic home in Youngstown is a worthwhile endeavor for the right kind of person in the right kind of position. I have often said that the Northside homes were built with character and a special kind of quality. So different from now when each new house looks like its neighbor, made with the cheapest materials, and has a price tag of $300,000.

I look at the towers and see such a missed opportunity to create something that had more of an urban feel. Exposed brick, open ceilings, a freight elevator. But instead there was little to no imagination. Almost as if the project was done the cheapest way possible. In fact, I have good information that one of the contractors who started the project went belly up in the middle of the job and another company had to not only finish, but had to correct the problems from the first guy.

I have a love of all history. I've looked at the old pictures of Youngstown and see what was. I look now at it's buildings, see the faded painted billboards on their side and imagine a better time. Perhaps it is my frustration with it's people and the MANY missed opportunities that fuel my anti-youngstown attitude. 2% of me has hope for Youngstown. 98% of me say logically, it won't happen in my lifetime.

I have friends that live in Poland. The feeling of community, the banding together to create its library and more recently its high school football stadium. Your right we need to be involved for a greater good. Perhaps I will enjoy what Poland has to offer. If for nothing else but a relaxing evening.

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