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Eastern Gateway’s partner bought the school’s downtown location for $3 million

Higher Education Partners buys Plaza Place structure, parking deck for $3 million

Friday, April 18, 2014

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Meeks

By David Skolnick

and Denise Dick

news@vindy.com

Youngstown

Higher Education Partners, Eastern Gateway Community College’s partner, paid $3 million to buy the Plaza Place building that houses the college in the city’s downtown.

The sale of the 40,000- square-foot building and parking deck from USA Plaza Parking, a subsidiary of the Frangos Group, to HEP was finalized Thursday, said Damon Frangos, the parent company’s vice president and general counsel.

HEP wanted to own the structure rather than lease it. HEP approached the Frangos Group a couple of months ago and quickly worked out a deal, Frangos said.

The college opened at the plaza — what it calls the Valley Center — in August 2012.

“We decided that we wanted to be good partners to the school and HEP, and help ensure that the school stayed in downtown Youngstown at its current location for the foreseeable future,” Frangos said.

As part of the deal, Frangos said his company will continue to operate the parking deck for at least the next 20 years. The deck has 915 spots, he said.

“It’s a good thing for us,” said Laura Meeks, EGCC president. “Ownership makes it really tremendous for us.”

She added: “We’re expanding, adding additional classrooms. We’re actually out of space.”

The building’s only other tenant is Los Gallos Authentic Mexican Restaurant and Sports Cantina, and it will remain at its current location, Frangos said.

The building’s address is 53 S. Champion St., though the structure borders South Champion, East Federal, South Walnut and East Boardman streets.

The college opened the Valley Center after working for about a year to develop a partnership with HEP and secure a location.

Under the initial contract, a public-private partnership, the college is responsible for academic operations. HEP is in charge of building renovations and some operational aspects of the project.

“We’re making plans for anticipated growth — for the reality of growth,” Meeks said.

The American Association of Community Colleges last month named Eastern Gateway one of the country’s fastest-growing colleges. With a 20 percent increase in enrollment, the college saw its highest semester enrollment this spring. The student head count reached 3,087, up from 2,573 in spring 2013.

Fall 2013 also saw record enrollment, leading all public university main and regional campuses and community colleges, according to the Ohio Board of Regents’ fall 2013 preliminary head-count enrollment report.

Eastern Gateway’s fall 2013 head count reached 2,904, a 15 percent increase from fall 2012. Between 2010 and 2011, EGCC realized an 11 percent increase, the largest of Ohio’s community colleges.

USA Plaza Parking managed the parking deck starting in 2001 and purchased the structure in January 2006 for $2 million.

The company spent about $1.2 million in the last couple of years to improve the parking deck’s structure and on elevators for the building, among other things, Frangos said.

The company lost ownership of the facility briefly in 2011 with the building in receivership, but worked out those financial issues.

As for the deck, Frangos and city officials say they are working on a deal to provide parking for employees of the nearby VXI Global Solutions, a call center at the city-owned 20 Federal Place on West Federal Street.

As part of the lease with VXI, the city is required to provide free parking to company employees.

VXI employees currently park at the city-owned Covelli Centre and are bused by Community Bus Services to and from work, about a quarter-mile away. That contract is for $10,416.67 a month, or $125,000 annually.

Frangos, which had the VXI parking contract for a year until about 2011, proposed a deal last year for the VXI parking contract for $108,000. It was rejected by the city because of structural concerns.

But the two sides are poised to enter into another agreement.

“We’d be glad to take [VXI] back as a lot of their employees are parking [at the deck] now,” Frangos said.