By GRACE WYLER
Downtown’s historic Federal Building is getting a second chance at life.
Vernon’s Cafe, a popular Niles eatery, will open a new restaurant on the ground floor next year as part of a major renovation of the Youngstown landmark.
The Gatta Co., a Niles-based commercial real-estate concern, unveiled plans for the $2.4 million project Friday, giving city and state officials a tour of the early stages of construction.
The Federal Building renovation will be a major step in the transformation of downtown Youngstown, said Dominic Gatta III, a partner in the company.
“The building, when complete, will serve as a model for what can happen in Youngstown,” he said. “Hopefully it will spur others to do the same.”
The project, which received a $445,884 state historic-preservation tax credit, will maintain the integrity of the 108-year-old building, Gatta said.
The new restaurant — V2 Wine Bar Trattoria by Vernon — will cater primarily to people working downtown, said owner Vernon Cesta.
“We want to capitalize on the lunch crowd and maybe try to do something later at night,” he said. “We’re just going to try and work hard at it and hopefully make it work.”
V2 will offer an abridged version of the Vernon’s Cafe menu, he said.
In addition to the restaurant, the new Federal Building will feature residential apartments on the four upper floors.
Each floor will have two 900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments and a 600-square-foot studio apartment, Gatta said. The two-bedroom units will rent for $900 per month, and the studios will go for $600 a month, he said.
The lack of nearby residential services, such as grocery stores or laundromats, is a concern, Gatta said. The nearest supermarket — the Sparkle Market on Belmont Avenue — closed last month.
Residential services likely will spring up as more people move downtown, said T. Sharon Woodberry, Youngstown’s director of economic development. She added that “discussions are taking place” for a grocery store to replace the Union Square Sparkle Market but would not give further details.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, lauded the Gatta Co. and Vernon’s for their investment in the community.
“We have a great local company with a great local restaurant looking to make things work downtown,” Ryan said. “This is another great day in Youngstown.”
Renovations are expected to be completed by early 2011, he said.
The Federal Building’s three retail tenants — Steel Town Studios, Aulis Alterations and Hootenanny Vintage Guitars — will remain open during the construction.