By David Skolnick
The owners of the vacant Wean United Building, one of downtown’s biggest eyesores, have come to a deal with city officials to start the demolition of about 60 percent of the 300,000-square-foot structure now.
If a tenant isn’t found for the remaining 120,000-square-foot portion by May 2014, that will also come down.
A deal is signed between Gearmar Properties, which owns the Wean United property, and the city. It needs final approval from the city’s board of control, which meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday to consider that.
Under the deal, Gearmar will take down about 180,000 square feet of the building, which it has already started, and try to find a tenant for the rest of the building. The company plans to sell the former Wean United structure for scrap.
That other portion has space for a 100-ton crane, something that isn’t common in existing buildings, said Dean Gearhart, the company’s co-owner and secretary-treasurer.
Gearmar has talked with a few companies about using that location, which borders the Market Street Bridge, but nothing has materialized.
If Gearmar can’t find a tenant for that section of the structure by May 2014, the company will have it demolished too, said Gearhart and Bill Marsteller, co-owner and president.
“We are continuing to look for a user,” Marsteller said. “We have a couple of possibilities for the property. It’s nice it has a last chance to become something. If not, it will be a memory.”
The city will take ownership soon of the entire 10.43-acre site under the deal with Gearmar, but “if a tenant beneficial to both parties is found, ownership would revert back to Gearmar,” said city Law Director David Bozanich.
The city was awarded a $1,775,418 state grant last year for an environmental cleanup of the site, primarily to remove heavy metals from the soil, and will spend up to $591,806 of its city money for the work. The cleanup may not require the city to use all of the $591,806 set aside for the project, Bozanich said.
“For us to spend the grant, we need ownership of the property,” he said.
Time has been an issue.
The state grant requires all work be finished by Dec. 30, 2014, or the city loses the money.
The original start date was Dec. 30, 2012, and then postponed because of interest from a company in the location.
Gearmar was then given until mid-September to find an interested company, but the city agreed to delay it until May 2014 because the demolition work on the 120,000-square-foot section can be finished before the December 2014 deadline, Bozanich said.
“This took a little longer than we anticipated, but we got a deal done,” he said.
If a company is found for that location, the two sides would have to determine how much additional space that business would need before deciding what to do with the entire parcel, Bozanich said.
“There’s still significant value with the one bay with the crane capacity so we decided to do a limited demolition to take away the eyesores and potentially have a taxpaying business there,” he said. “Our hope is to find a tenant and create significant jobs there.”
Demolition and remediation will take about six months.
If a tenant isn’t found, the city plans to turn the parcel into a parking lot while looking for an industrial, commercial or recreational use.
Gearmar has owned the site for eight years. It was last occupied in 2011 by Youngstown Pipe and Supply, which moved to the former Cold Metal Products site in Campbell and Youngstown that is also owned by Gearmar.
Wean United last used the downtown Youngstown location in 1982 and sold it three years later.