From eyesore to amphitheater?
Rich Infante of Niles, at top, uses a cutting torch to dismantle part of the Wean United Building in downtown Youngstown. Crews have been working on demolishing the building since October. Above are the remains of the facility, where more than 1,300 people once came to work.
By JOE GORMAN
and DAVID SKOLNICK
Demolition of a large portion of the Wean United Building is proceeding on schedule — something city council members say is a step in the right direction to repurpose one of downtown’s biggest eyesores.
City Finance Director David Bozanich said Wednesday that everything is proceeding as planned to knock down 60 percent of the 300,000-square-foot building.
“That’s been an eyesore for several years,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th. “I’m glad demolition is progressing.”
Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, who represents the city’s downtown, said, “It’s needed to go for some time. I would have loved to see a entertainment/housing/shopping area at that site, but the city doesn’t have the money, and no one’s come forward to do it. It’s a big wish.”
Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, said he is also pleased to see the structure being demolished.
“I’d like the city to use it for economic development or beautification along the Mahoning River corridor,” he said.
The site was last used by Youngstown Pipe and Supply in 2011 and Wean United last used the building in 1982 and sold it three years later.
Gearmar Properties, which owns the building, reached an agreement with the city in October to start the demolition. The project is expected to take six months.
Dean Gearhart, the co-owner and secretary-treasurer of Gearmar, declined to comment to The Vindicator on Wednesday and referred all questions about the project to Bozanich.
The state awarded Youngstown a grant of more than $1.75 million in December 2012 to remove heavy metals from the soil and the building and the environmental work has to be completed by the end of December 2014 or the city will lose the money.
The remaining 40 percent of the building could be of interest because it has space for a 100-ton crane. If a deal is not made by May for someone to use that portion of the building, it will also be taken down.
Bozanich said there has been some interest in that portion but he did not name any businesses. He said a decision has not been made yet to extend the May deadline by a few weeks if talks are underway with someone who wants it.
In October, Gearhart and Bill Marsteller, the company’s co-owner and president, said they were talking to a couple of potential companies interested in the building. The two previously negotiated with a few companies for that location, but nothing materialized.
So far, plans for the site call for additional parking for downtown and the nearby Covelli Centre, Bozanich said.
He said the city wants to control the 10.43 acre site for a proposed amphitheater near the Covelli Centre.