By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
For 40-some years, downtown Youngstown was without a hotel.
That changed in May 2018, when a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel opened in the renovated Stambaugh Building on Central Square.
Eight months since it opened, hotel management, developers and a tenant say the property is exceeding expectations.
“It’s gone very well. We’ve exceeded our forecast expectations, both from an occupancy standpoint and revenue standpoint,” said Steve Mitchell, the hotel’s general manager.
“These are the lean months in the hotel world,” said David Rizzuto, director of operations for Pan Brothers Associates Inc. of New York, which developed the property with Youngstown-based NYO Property Group. “Even with all that said, we’re happy with the traction we’re getting and the reception by the people.”
The developers hope 2019 will bring more good things for the property, such as increased occupancy and growth in catering and special events, as well as signing tenants for space on the building’s first floor that remains open.
The city had at least 17 hotels downtown in 1918, according to Vindicator files citing a city directory from that year.
The upscale Tod House Hotel was built downtown in the 1860s. In the early 20th century, the Hotel Ohio – later known as the Ohio Hotel and then Pick-Ohio, now Amedia Plaza – opened as a full-service hotel geared to business clientele, according to Vindicator files.
As The Vindicator reported earlier this year, however, the hotel business began to dwindle after World War II. Many hotels moved to suburbs such as Girard, Liberty and Austintown. In the 1970s, the last downtown hotels closed.
Built in the early 1900s, the Stambaugh Building is a 12-story neoclassical revival. It would later become the corporate headquarters for Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.
In more recent years, however, the building sat empty and dilapidated. When developers of the DoubleTree project started work on it in 2012, they found broken windows, missing brass fixtures, exposed beams and ceilings falling down, NYO Property Group designer Jackie Marchionda recalled at the hotel’s opening in May.
Over the course of several years, NYO Property Group – owned by local developer Dominic Marchionda – and Pan Brothers invested millions in renovating the property to transform it into a 125-room luxury hotel.
From the beginning, the hotel’s occupancy was bolstered by the proximity of Youngstown State University and the Covelli Centre, Mitchell said.
“We’ve seen strong occupancy at the weekends, with events at the Covelli Centre [being] a big push for us on the weekends,” he said.
Corporate guests typically make up the week-day business.
Additionally, the hotel has had strong interest from people who live locally, Mitchell said. As the first hotel downtown in decades, Mahoning Valley residents are interested in the property and have booked weekend stays there.
“It’s been very positive,” Mitchell said. “They enjoy having a hotel downtown, having a restaurant on the first floor is very convenient. ... People [really appreciate] how the character of the hotel and the building has been preserved, but also the amenities.”
Those include a 24-hour lobby market, 24-hour fitness center, business center and meeting spaces – including the top-floor Palladian Ballroom that features views of downtown Youngstown.
Another feature is Bistro 1907, a restaurant on the building’s first floor. Within just a few months, local restaurateur Mark Canzonetta and his wife, Melissa, transformed the space into an upscale, modern French bistro.
The couple couldn’t be happier with the venture.
“Bistro 1907 has far exceeded our expectation in every way. We are so grateful for the reception of the Valley and the surrounding areas have given us,” they said. “Being in the Hilton DoubleTree and part of the downtown Youngstown community is an honor for us. We continue to strive for excellence with our food service and hospitality.
“Thank you to the Mahoning Valley for an amazing 2018. We look forward to growing with you in 2019.”
The Canzonettas have enjoyed being in business downtown so much that they are now working on another downtown restaurant concept – this time, centering on Mexican street food.
Also coming: another tenant on the Stambaugh Building’s first floor.
Original plans included a coffee shop and another restaurant, but neither of those deals came to fruition. Rizzuto said Friday, however, that Chemical Bank has signed a lease for one of the available spaces. The developers are hoping to find a restaurant for the other available space, but are open to other types of tenants, he said.
Going forward, developers expect business to be even better this year.
“We expect it to improve, and we expect occupancies to pick up in the coming year and year,” Rizzuto said. “We’re pleased with the way it’s been received to date.”