By David Skolnick
The owners of the vacant Wean United Building, one of downtown’s biggest eyesores, have until about mid-September to find a company interested in occupying about half the structure or it all will be demolished.
Gearmar Properties Inc., which owns the 300,000-square-foot industrial building, had been in discussions with a company for more than a year, but that business opted last month to locate elsewhere, said Dean Gearhart, Gearmar’s co-owner and secretary-treasurer.
That company was to occupy about half the building that has the space to use a 100-ton crane, something uncommon in existing structures, he said.
“They wasted our time,” Gearhart said of the company.
Gearmar is talking with another company, but that business is backing away from committing to the location because of the economy, Gearhart said.
He declined to disclose the names of the two industrial companies.
Under a deal with Youngstown, Gearmar has until the middle of September to find a tenant for that half of the building with the crane space or it will demolish the entire structure, sell the scrap and turn over ownership to the city.
Even if a tenant is found, the other half of the building, including the portion that borders the Market Street Bridge, will be demolished, said Gearhart, city Finance Director David Bozanich and T. Sharon Woodberry, the city’s economic development director. That work should start in a couple of weeks, Gearhart said.
As part of the agreement, the city is using a $1,775,418 state grant it received in 2012 for an environmental cleanup of the 10.43-acre site, largely to remove heavy metals from the soil, and spend up to $591,806 of its own money toward the work. The cleanup may not require the city to use all of that latter amount, Bozanich said.
Time is important, Bozanich said.
The state grant requires all work to be finished by Dec. 30, 2014, or the city would lose that money.
The original start date was Dec. 30, 2012, but was moved to Dec. 30, 2013. The city had a tentative agreement in March 2012 for Gearmar to start demolition, but agreed to delay it because of interest from the company that eventually chose a location in Pennsylvania.
“If we’re making progress” on cleanup and demolition, “we can seek another extension if need be” from the state, Woodberry said.
A complete demolition and remediation would take about six months, while making improvements to the usable half of the building, which is a middle section of the property that is off Front Street, would take about a year, Bozanich said.
“We view the Wean site as one of the last eyesores downtown that needs to be resolved,” he said on behalf of the city’s administration. “We are also frustrated driving over the Market Street Bridge and seeing the site. But you do what you can to make a major deal happen.”
If a tenant isn’t found by mid-September and the entire structure is taken down, the city initially will turn the location into a parking lot, Bozanich said.
The parcel also can be used for industrial, recreational or commercial space, Woodberry said.
Gearmar has owned the property for eight years. It was last occupied two years ago by Youngstown Pipe and Supply, which relocated to the former Cold Metal Products property in Campbell and Youngstown that also is owned by Gearmar.
Wean United ceased operations there in 1982 and sold the property in 1985.