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Demo starts for Niles building

Community says adieu to former newspaper office

NILES — Demolition of the vacant and blighted Niles Times building began Monday, and things are going according to plan, said Tom Klejka with the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office.

“Everything’s going as planned. We’re going to continue down the building like we did with the first section and hopefully it will still collapse in on itself,” Klejka said. “With an old building like this, you never know what you may run into so hopefully we can continue what we’re doing, clean up as we go and not have a big mess on our hands.”

Demolition of the building was much needed, according to Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz, and will serve as downtown parking when all is said and done.

“This is a building that’s 100 years old come January. It’s a vacant, unsafe, blighted building,” he said.

To allow for demolition to take place, Mientkiewicz said there were several channels for approval, such as Niles City Council, the Trumbull County commissioners and the Trumbull County Council of Governments.

“Without the COG and the engineer’s office, we could not do this or it would be difficult for us to take on a project of this magnitude,” Mientkiewicz said.

Once the demolition is finished and the lot is paved over, the final price for the entire project is $60,000. The demolition cost itself was $30,000 which, according to Mientkiewicz, is a “great bargain for the city.”

He added that if the city were to try to take on the demolition on its own without the support from the COG, the price of the project would be extremely high.

“You’re looking well into six figures. I don’t have an exact number, but it’s estimated to be well into six figures. $30,000 to do this is a real game changer,” he said.

BUILDING HISTORY

From 1922 to 1993, the Niles Times was a newspaper in the city. In 1993, the building closed and the city purchased it three years later. For several years, the water department called the building home and some of the building was used for storage of various documents ranging from court dockets to tax records. In 2018, the building was deemed unsafe and the water department moved out. Since then, the building has been vacant.

Despite being part of the city’s history, the new purpose of the area as a parking lot will help push forward the development and revitalization of downtown Niles, said city Councilman at-Large Barry Profato.

“It’s great because we really needed it done. This is part of the economic development package we put together a couple of years ago,” Profato said. “It’s important because we’ve really been concentrating our efforts downtown… it enables us to do other things at city hall and opens up parking.”

The need for parking comes from concerns raised by downtown business owners, Mientkiewicz said.

“As soon as this is demolished and repaved, this will provide all the parking downtown will warrant, albeit a block away,” he said. “One of our main goals is to revitalize downtown and this is a major concern that was brought to our attention.”

Fighting blight and economic development are two priorities for city council, and Mientkiewicz sees the demolition and future plans as a win-win situation.

“We’re going to address two birds with one stone — not only a blighted building and the demolition, but also paved parking and parking issues,” he said.

PRESERVING HISTORY

There wasn’t a huge crowd of city residents watching the demolition, but several people drove by and expressed their sadness seeing the building being torn down — among them Niles resident Jane Vigorito.

“It’s a part of the history of the city and it’s an old building. When things get old, it seems like everybody wants to tear everything down instead of making it new again. It makes me sad,” Vigorito said.

Profato also has a connection to the building. He said he used to deliver newspapers for the Niles Times, but he realizes the importance of moving forward.

“I was born and raised here,” Profato said. “When you look at all the historical stuff, your heart is in it. Anytime it’s an old, antiquated building, it impacts the whole community, but it’s better for economic development. We need parking just like anything else. People don’t realize how important parking is until they don’t have it.”

City employee and lifelong Niles resident Beverley Cross was present at the demolition across the street from city hall. She said growing up, the Niles Times building had been a staple, but she feels indifferent about the building coming down.

“It’s going to be different not seeing it there. It’s not so much sad, but the buildings we’re used to seeing have been torn down now. That part of it, the history, is sad to see go,” Cross said.

The demolition and clean up is expected to last a couple of weeks, and Mientkiewicz said the project should be completed by winter.

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