Youngstown and the CIC sign deals for three downtown parking lots

Published: Fri, December 20, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

By David Skolnick


The city and a nonprofit downtown property agency signed a deal that, when finalized, will result in three parking lots and the demolition of a vacant building along West Federal Street.

The contract, signed Thursday by the city’s board of control with the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp., calls for:

The CIC to demolish the former Kress Building, next door to the 7th District Court of Appeals, and turn it into a parking lot no later than June 30. The agency doesn’t have a cost estimate on work and will borrow the money for it, said Dave Kosec, the CIC’s project manager.

After the work is done, the city will buy the property from the CIC for $500,000, and use it as a parking lot for its water and wastewater customers. The CIC would use the $500,000 toward the repayment of the loan it will borrow to demolish Kress, Kosec said.

The CIC will sign a 20-year lease with the city for $100 a year, beginning Jan. 1, for the former Paramount Theatre property at West Federal and Hazel streets. The CIC has a renewal option for an additional 20 years, also for $100 a year. The CIC can purchase the property at any time at a fair-market price. Though the lease starts in January, the parking lot won’t be ready. An occupancy permit would be issued on or before June 1.

The CIC agrees to transform a fenced-in hole, just east of the Wells Building at 201 W. Federal St., into a parking lot. The CIC would use the $85,000 it is to receive from Strollo Architects, which is planning a $5 million improvement project to the building. The hole has been there since 2008 when the CIC demolished the Armed Forces Building and the State Theatre, keeping the latter building’s facade. The parking lot will be completed “on or before Dec. 31, 2014, or as soon as practicable,” according to the agreement.

“The end result is there will be a significant aesthetic improvement” to downtown, said city Finance Director David Bozanich, a board of control member.

Without the assistance of the city, the Kress demolition work likely would be delayed or not happen, Bozanich said.

The property switch after the demolition provides a shorter walk from a parking lot for those wanting to pay water and wastewater bills at city hall, 26 S. Phelps St., Bozanich said.

The Paramount property is closer to other CIC-owned buildings, including the George V. Voinovich Government Center at 242 W. Federal St., Kosec said.

The CIC “has an obligation to fill in the hole,” added city Law Director Anthony Farris, who also served on the three-member board of control with Bozanich and Mayor Charles Sammarone. “It has multiple benefits for downtown,” Farris added.

Work at the Paramount property is finished except for pouring surface asphalt at the parking lot and installing a light pole.

The city received an $803,490 grant from the state in July 2011 to demolish the Paramount building.

The building opened in 1918 as the Liberty Theatre for vaudeville acts and silent movies with a 1,700-seat auditorium featuring an aquarium and fountain in the lobby.

It was sold in 1929 to Paramount Pictures and renamed the Paramount Theatre. It closed in 1976 and has been owned by a variety of companies before the city purchased the dilapidated structure for $80,000 in November 2010.

Long-term neglect led to the building’s deterioration with holes in the roof causing major weather damage to its interior and the determination that it couldn’t be saved.

Kress also is deteriorated beyond repair.

The CIC has attempted to sell the structure, built 93 years ago, without success.

It last was occupied in 2000 by the Wig Warehouse, but that business had to relocate because of the building’s unsafe conditions. Structural engineers at the time said the building was in danger of collapse and should be demolished because it is a safety and fire hazard. Additional holes in the roof caused major water damage, Kosec said.

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