By Ed Runyan
Downtown has “had more investment in the last two years than in the past 10 years,” the director of Warren’s nonprofit Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp. told a council committee.
Tony Iannucci, speaking to the Health and Welfare Committee Monday, said the millions’ worth of previous and planned investment in three buildings on Courthouse Square have increased the value of all of the real estate downtown.
Those three buildings are the $2.5 million renovation by the Wean Foundation of its offices on West Market Street, the $1 million renovation by Paul Clouser of his home and National Fire Repair offices beside that and the $3.1 million renovation for the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center over the next year.
In addition, the downtown area has seen investment from shale-gas companies, including the Boyle Building on South Park Avenue. At least four shale companies now use office space downtown, he said.
More than $2 million will be invested in the YWCA on North Park Avenue through a federal grant to provide housing; $1.2 million will be spent to renovate the Comfort Inn on North Park; $5 million will be spent to renovate the Warner House apartments on High Street; and the YMCA has replaced all of its windows.
The McDonald’s Restaurant on South Street was rebuilt, and the nearby Taco Bell will see renovations. The Chase Tower on Courthouse Square will see growth with the move of Warren’s Eastern Gateway Community College there, and the Hippodrome on High Street has been renovated and reopened.
Several businesses have opened in locations where other businesses have closed, such as the Courthouse Grill in place of the Blue Iris and Sunset Lounge in place of the Blue Magoo.
There are nearly no vacant storefront spaces available, Iannucci said.
The committee’s chairwoman, Helen Rucker, said Iannucci was one of the people she has asked to speak to the committee to learn what organizations receiving city money have been doing with those funds.
Redevelopment and Planning, which started in 1980, administers the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant loan program and promotes economic development for the city, especially regarding the downtown area.
Iannucci, who also was Warren auditor from 1984 to 1995, was asked what WRAP does to promote the city.
“If you were asking me how to market the city, it’s make it the best city you can, and it will market itself,” he said. “People will come here.”
Mayor Doug Franklin said the Youngstown- Warren Regional Chamber and Western Reserve Port Authority are marketing Warren to oil and gas executives in Houston right now.