By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The owner of a downtown building that is undergoing a $4 million renovation is seeking to have the structure placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Gallagher Building, at the corner of Commerce and North Hazel streets, was purchased last year by Gatta Development Corp. of Niles for $192,500. Work began in the spring to gut the four-story 1904 structure and convert it into two ground-level restaurants, offices on the second floor and apartments on the upper floors.
Dominic Gatta III, owner of the Gatta Corp., halted the project last month, however, after learning of the building’s past. He then began the historical-designation process by submitting information to the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.
Two weeks ago, the OHPO informed Gatta that it sees merit in his application. The next step is for Gatta to submit an official nomination request. If the OHPO approves it, it will be forwarded to the National Register of Historic Places for its approval.
The entire process takes about a year, according to Betty Powers of the OHPO. Gatta, however, said it’s possible he will receive the green light as early as December.
The historic designation will increase the prestige of the building and also trigger a 25 percent state tax credit and a 20 percent federal tax credit for the renovation project, said Powers.
“It’s a good tool for economic development,” she said. “It opens up a building to new usage.”
Though the renovation work would remain in Gatta’s hands, a historical designation could affect the construction and design of the renovation. Gatta, however, said he would be happy to conform with any preservation guidelines or recommendations.
“I’m a huge supporter of historic preservation,” he said. “Making this building a historic landmark is very important to me. I will have a plaque displayed once it’s completed.”
The Gallagher Building is historical because of its original owner and namesake, John Gallagher.
“His was a true American success story,” said Gatta.
Born in Ireland in 1844, Gallagher came to the United States in 1864. Over the next 40 years, he would rise from saloon keeper to the largest wholesaler of liquor in the city. Gallagher died in 1927, a wealthy man with a legacy of charitable leadership in Youngstown.
The razing of the neighboring Paramount Theater building this month again has made visible a faded sign on the brick side wall of the building that reads “Gallagher’s Wholesale Liquor Store.”
Gallagher was the founder and first president of the first local chapter of Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish social organization, and one of the founders of the Youngstown Council of the Knights of Columbus, which was the first in Ohio.
The Gallagher Building was designed by the local architectural firm of Owley and Boucherle. The L-shaped building has storefronts on both Commerce and Hazel streets.
The facade features a prominent sandstone cornice with Classic-style molding and ornamental detailing.
Gatta said it is among the oldest remaining buildings downtown.
His plans call for converting the ground level into two gathering spots: Sambuca Cafe and Primo Burgers and Brew.
Before Gatta’s purchase, the Gallagher Building’s only tenant was Cedar’s, a nightclub noted for live rock ’n’ roll music.