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City signs another $25K contract for upgrades

St. Louis company maxed original deal for 20 Federal Place work

YOUNGSTOWN — The city’s board of control approved another $25,000 contract with a St. Louis company to provide technical assistance, strategic counsel and other services related to the potential redevelopment and sale of the downtown 20 Federal Place building.

The board approved the contract Thursday with Steadfast City Economic and Community Partners that is retroactive to Saturday and runs through Dec. 22.

The board had signed a $25,000 contract Sept. 30, 2021, with Steadfast for the same work that was to expire Dec. 31.

But Steadfast, which is paid $200 an hour, has already hit the $25,000 mark from that original contract, said city Finance Director Kyle Miasek, a board of control member.

Steadfast “used up their billable hours and I need money for a new calendar and budget year,” Miasek said.

If Steadfast gets to the $25,000 in this new contract this year, Miasek said the administration would ask city council to approve legislation to pay the firm additional money.

Steadfast started working with the city on the 20 Federal Place project in 2020 after a $40,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant was obtained to provide technical and marketing assistance.

“This is a very complex project,” said Doug Rasmussen, Steadfast’s president and CEO. “We’re heavily involved in this. It’s a lot of hard work. It takes time.”

The city purchased the building in November 2004 after Phar-Mor, a national retail store company, went out of business. The property was the Phar-Mor Centre, the company’s corporate headquarters. Before that, it was the flagship location of Strouss’ department store for several decades.

The city has unsuccessfully tried to sell the 332,000-square-foot building in the past.

CLEANUP

Among the issues Steadfast is focusing attention on is obtaining tax credits and grants to help pay for the cleanup of the building and the redevelopment work, Rasmussen said.

The city was seeking as much as $8 million from the Ohio Building Demolition & Revitalization Fund, a new state program, to cover 75 percent of the demolition and asbestos abatement costs.

But it was discovered that the funding had to be part of a Mahoning countywide request and seeking the money is no longer an option, Miasek said.

Working on that grant request was among eight or 10 aspects of what Steadfast is doing for the city with 20 Federal Place, Rasmussen said. Other work includes financial analysis, working with city council, looking at other funding opportunities, technical assistance and coordinating weekly meetings, he said.

The redevelopment project could cost as much as $60 million, Rasmussen said.

“We won’t know the exact number until we get all the work in,” he said. “It could be up to $60 million.”

When Steadfast presented a plan in March 2021 to the city for the building, the cost was estimated to be $34.5 million.

The board of control on Dec. 2 signed a memorandum of understanding with Desmone Architects, a Pittsburgh architectural firm, giving it an exclusive 60-day period to finalize an agreement on how to redevelop the city-owned building at 20 W. Federal St.

Miasek said the city didn’t start the clock on the 60 days until the beginning of this year.

The agreement calls for Desmone to provide “funding sources, continue dialogue with two interested tenants, evaluate existing tenant relocation strategies and conditions to transfer 20 Federal Place.”

RESOURCES

After that is done, the next step would be to give Desmone the exclusive right for a year to “pursue commitments from tenants, private capital providers, lenders and other public funding resources.”

Rasmussen said: “Desmone has been making good progress. They’re looking at different components to the project. It’s tracking well.”

Jim Ambrose, Desmone’s director of business development, told city council members at a Nov. 18 meeting that his company’s plan includes demolishing the three-story mezzanine on the Commerce Street side of the building, where the food court is located; a skylight in the roof that would create natural light all the way down to the ground floor; a parking lot in the basement; and a place to buy baked goods, produce and other foods on the ground floor.

The firm’s proposal also calls for the restoration of the archways on the Federal Street entrance and removing the canopy; improving the Phelps Street entrance; a rooftop restaurant as well as an observation deck on the roof; one-bed, one-bathroom apartments; and space for innovative businesses.

Desmone is an architectural firm that collaborates with other companies to redevelop buildings.

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