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City reps to inspect Chill-Can property

YOUNGSTOWN — Three city representatives will inspect the idled Chill-Can project site Friday to determine its condition as part of a $2.8 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against its owner, M.J. Joseph Development Corp.

City Law Director Jeff Limbian said he along with Michael Durkin, the city’s superintendent of code enforcement and blight remediation, and Thomas Hull II, an attorney hired by the city for this case, will spend about an hour touring the 21-acre site, both inside the three buildings and the exterior property.

“We want to see the level of completion,” Limbian said. “We’re going to look around and take pictures and take notes.”

The city contends the three buildings at the location are just shells and are incomplete.

Limbian said: “We understand there are bullet holes in the buildings, and floors on two of the buildings are not completed. The property’s value will be an issue” in this case.

Limbian said he hasn’t been inside the building but was told by Joseph’s security that two of the three buildings aren’t lighted, but “you can see rays of light coming through what are bullet holes.”

Brian Kopp, Joseph’s attorney, said of the bullet holes that Limbian “can point them out to me. I haven’t seen them. If they’re there, the city should do a better job of protecting the buildings.”

Kopp said he, other attorneys and Joseph officials won’t be at the Friday inspection by the city.

“We’re cooperating with the city,” Kopp said. “This is a very routine procedure in a case like this. Everyone’s making a big deal out of nothing. There’s nothing to this. It’s like a car crash so let’s go see it. It’s not like everything is a main event.”

LAWSUITS

The city filed a lawsuit June 17 contending M.J. Joseph Development Corp. failed to live up to its promises to develop the site.

Knowing the city’s lawsuit was coming, M.J. Joseph and its sister company, Joseph Manufacturing Co. Inc., both run by Mitchell Joseph, filed a May 24 lawsuit against the city to stop it from reclaiming a $1.5 million water and wastewater grant.

In a March 29 certified letter, the city informed Mitchell Joseph he had 60 days to construct a number of buildings and hire about 150 workers or it would file a lawsuit. The city followed through June 17 with the lawsuit that was postponed because of the Joseph legal action.

The city lawsuit not only seeks to get back $1.5 million in water and wastewater funds given to the companies, but it seeks other money.

The lawsuit wants $414,948.09 it spent on acquiring 15 properties it bought for the project, which also includes relocation expenses. It also lists $318,532.71 in demolition and abatement costs and an estimated $575,000 loss and counting in income tax revenue from the project’s failure.

City records from earlier this year listed two employees at the property.

The business was to have employed 150 by now and eventually 237.

Joseph had said the project, which broke ground in November 2016, would cost about $18.8 million and be in full operation by 2018 to produce the world’s only self-chilling beverage can.

In the Joseph lawsuit, Kopp wrote: “The project encountered construction delays for a myriad of reasons that are known to the defendant city. Through 2020 and into 2021, plaintiff, Joseph Development, faced unforeseeable consequences as a result of the global restrictions and shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The company plans to develop the project, and the companies had borrowed more than $4 million for it, Kopp said.

Joseph’s business is in Irvine, Calif., but he grew up in Youngstown and the Chill-Can location is where his great-grandfather founded and operated Star Bottling Co. from 1921 to 1970.

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