Redevelopment in Downtown Warren
Warren native Christopher Alan, operator of the Auto Parkit automated parking company and the Dasher Lawless land development company, stands inside a two-story building on Pine Street Southeast that he is renovating for use as luxury apartments discussing redevelopment of downtown Warren.
By Ed Runyan
Auto Parkit, the Los Angeles-based automated parking company operated by Warren native Christopher Alan, is moving forward with the purchase of former Packard Electric buildings on Dana Street.
Alan said he also has identified a backup site, should the Packard site not work out.
“Dasher Lawless Automation Auto Parkit is moving forward, period. We’re very positive on the area. We think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Alan told The Vindicator on Monday. “The question is, are we moving forward at the Packard site?
“I’m hopeful [that] will be the site.”
Dasher Lawless Inc. is the name of Alan’s development company, which has spent more than 25 years in the building industry in California, Florida and Ohio, according to its website.
Alan announced his intention to relocate Auto Parkit’s engineering and manufacturing facilities to the former Packard facilities in Warren in October 2015. Since then, there have been environmental studies done at the site to determine the scope of the cleanup needed.
Alan says the cleanup cost appears to be manageable. Though there have been challenges, he believes local and state officials will take the necessary steps to provide him with a clean site.
“I think between Trumbull County and city of Warren and the [Western Reserve] Port Authority and JobsOhio that the will is there to get the site cleaned up, whatever it takes to get us to come,” he said.
“They understand it’s not my obligation [to pay for the cleanup] because I didn’t contaminate the site, and they understand the importance of bringing in – over the next decade – probably a thousand ... high-paying jobs,” he said.
Alan described the Packard site as “a facility that works for us.”
The Packard site is owned by Maximus III Properties, owned by Sergio DiPaolo of Girard.
Alan said he’s not prepared to announce the backup site’s location yet. “It’s about 12 acres, and we could build what we need to build there. It has some existing buildings, but we could also build what we need to build there. So we’re coming to Warren,” Alan said.
Alan hopes various local and state officials will be able to attend a ribbon cutting March 10 in Los Angeles for an $11 million, 400,000-square foot Auto Parkit parking structure at the historic Helms Bakery.
“It’s a great showcase for our product, and it will really explain visually what we do and the significance of what we do,” he said.
“We’re selling $6 million to $30 million parking structures, and we’re selling them everywhere,” he explained. “There’s a lot of material, a lot of steel, a lot of engineering, a lot of fabrication that goes into those projects, and that can all be done here in Warren.”
Alan said Auto Parkit already has brought a $2 million contract to a Warren metal fabricating company for components used in his automated parking systems. The work was being done by three vendors in Michigan and one in Canada.
“We’re letting contracts on new projects and it’s all being – almost all – being done locally. As we get our factory set up, that will all be done in Warren. We’ve hired – I think I’m up to 14 people now – and eight of those are engineering positions, which are high-paying jobs,” he said.
“That’s three quarters of a million dollars of payroll that’s going into Warren, and that’s just the start,” he said.
Mike Keys, Warren Community Development director, said an asbestos study was done at the former Packard site, and a Phase 2 environmental study there also is nearly complete.
Keys said JobsOhio is providing $200,000 for the environmental assessment. The port authority fronted the money and will be reimbursed when the assessment is complete, Keys said.
“It looks like it’s pretty much going to be OK,” Keys said of the results of the assessments. Some contamination might have to be removed, but at least Alan will know what contamination is there, and that’s crucial information, Keys said.
The Trumbull County Treasurer’s office filed foreclosure on the DiPaolo properties on Dana Street in the fall, saying Maximus owes $260,734 in back property taxes. Keys said he does not expect the foreclosure to have a negative effect on the ability of Alan to acquire the properties.
Meanwhile, one reason Alan was in Warren on Monday was to check on the renovation of a building on Pine Street Southeast he purchased recently. The top floor of the Bernard Building near the Warren Police Department will be luxury apartments.
Each will be 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom units with granite countertops and hardwood floors. It’s one of “a lot of buildings” he has purchased here, Alan said.
“We’re very bullish on Warren right now. We think the downtown area is an exceptional value, and we think there’s a lot of opportunity for recreating downtown.”