A popular drugstore chain in the Mahoning Valley, Ohio and 41 other states touts Convenience, Value and Service in the initials that form its name. Warren city leaders could very easily apply those same attributes to its recent $2.5 million purchase of the Gibson Building in downtown Warren where several city departments will be relocated.
Warren City Council last month approved the purchase of the 1997 three-story office building at 258 E. Market St. to house the city’s community service, income tax and health departments. Even though the Gibson Building is now 17 years old, it still stands as one of the newest and most attractive office buildings downtown.
As for convenience, movement of city offices to the heart of the downtown area two blocks from Courthouse Square will benefit users of tax, health and community services as well as overall downtown redevelopment. Its central location, ample parking and placement along bus routes will make it easier for residents to visit. It also will offer convenience because of its proximity to other nearby government offices and the growing commercial activity in downtown Warren.
As for value, the Gibson Building purchase gives the city a relatively strong bricks-and-mortar asset. Although two of 10 council members rejected the purchase because of what they viewed as an unrealistically high purchase price, most realized that it was the best available bang for the city’s buck. The purchase clearly beats an earlier proposal to spend an estimated $10.5 million to construct a one-stop municipal services building to house all city departments. That’s an $8 million savings to Warren taxpayers.
What’s more, the city now becomes a landlord for existing tenants in the Gibson Building’s first and second floors — the Social Security Administration and the federal Women’s Infants’ and Children’s program – and will collect about $300,000 yearly in rent from those agencies. As Mayor Doug Franklin pointed out, with those tenants paying far more than the cost of the city’s annual bond payment for the purchase, “it is even a greater value for our taxpayers.”
As for service, relocation of the three critical city departments will remove many of the “challenges” — as Mayor Franklin politely called them — at the aging and decrepit Community Services Building on Main Street Southwest where they’re currently housed. A 2012 building analysis of the structure found garbage cans and buckets strategically placed throughout the building to catch rainwater from leaking roofs, birds flying in and out of the edifice and a dangerous shifting structural foundation. Clearly, such conditions are not conducive to quality delivery of services.
As a result, abandoning and demolishing that embarrassing stain on the city’s physical plant will create yet another asset of the Gibson purchase: pride. Its destruction will remove a city-sanctioned eyesore at a time when the city is vigilantly working to remove hundreds of blighted private properties throughout the city. The new building also will further solidify the growing pride in the redevelopment of the city’s central business district. With millions of dollars in investment at Gibson’s East Market Street neighbors – most notably the Raymond John Wean Foundation and the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center – the relocation adds to the hubbub of economic redevelopment of downtown.
Given the intolerable conditions at the Community Services Building, city officials should work rapidly, diligently and conscientiously toward finalizing interior renovations and moving its dozens of affected workers to the new space that promises greater convenience, value and service to thousands of city residents.