By BRANDON KLEIN
The Vindicator’s nearly 85-year-old downtown office building will experience a transition to the Tech Belt in the next year.
The Youngstown Business Incubator, 241 W. Federal St., at 11 a.m. Thursday, will formally announce its $5.5 million plan to take over and renovate the building on West Boardman Street and Vindicator Square.
“This is a big deal,” said Barb Ewing, YBI’s chief operating officer.
To purchase the building, YBI received a loan from the Raymond J. Wean Foundation of Warren, administered through Cleveland-based Village Capital Corp., a community development finance institution.
The purchase price of The Vindicator’s steel-reinforced concrete building is $700,000. The price was based on the cost of renovations necessary to relocate the staff to the paper’s other building.
Company employees have been moving across Boardman Street for several weeks to the company’s production building, which has been in operation since 1972. The moves will be complete by the end of this month, said Ted Suffolk, The Vindicator’s assistant general manager.
YBI plans to use the building for startup space for additive manufacturing companies and graduate space for startup firms that have entered the market.
The business incubator received $3 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, $1.5 million from the Ohio Capital Appropriations budget and $500,000 from the city of Youngstown to renovate the office building for YBI’s use.
Additionally, Ewing said several foundations have supported the project with other pre-development costs, including the Thomases Family Endowment, Crandall Foundation, Youngstown Foundation, Walter and Caroline Watson Foundation, Fibus Family Foundation and Burton D. Morgan Foundation.
Strollo Architects is slated to renovate the 60,000-square-foot building after the finalized agreement is formally approved by the board of directors at its Monday meeting, Ewing said.
The project is tentatively slated to begin in August. Completion is expected within six to eight months, she said.
The office building was originally constructed in 1931 by the Scripps-Howard chain, which ran the Youngstown Telegram. The Vindicator acquired the Telegram in 1936, and eventually relocated its operations within the next two years.
“This is a bittersweet time for our family,” said Mark Brown, The Vindicator’s general manager. “The office building has been home to all four of our generations of family ownership, so letting go of it is painful.
“At the same time, we have supported the incubator from its inception and believe it has been a tremendous benefit to our community in terms of new tech jobs, diversification and a greatly enhanced national, even worldwide, image,” Brown added.
The Thursday event will close off Boardman Street for the celebration and feature former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams. He is now assistant secretary for economic development and is administrator for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
This is the fifth building added to YBI’s downtown campus, which has expanded since its inception more than 15 years ago.
The No. 1 university-affiliated business incubator in the world now operates on a annual budget of about $1 million, and has 20 portfolio companies on campus, Ewing said.
Expansion took off after YBI and the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. completed building the Taft Technology Center and renovated the Semple building, in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Both are located between the YBI’s original building and the Home Savings and Loan Co. building on West Federal Street.
Three years later, YBI announced the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, the federal pilot-program for additive manufacturing known as America Makes, would move into its fourth building on West Boardman Street.
When the incubator was initially created, The Vindicator donated YBI’s original building and what would become YBI’s fourth building.
Jim Cossler, CEO of YBI, said he’s a little taken aback at the progress and accomplishments YBI has achieved over the past 15 years.
“We’re literally in a race for our space,” he said, adding that about 85 percent of its four properties combined are occupied with some space reserved for the next “hot” startups.
Cossler expects the new building will fill up quickly after renovations are completed.
“I think we’ve got to start thinking about our sixth and seventh buildings in our downtown campus,” he said.