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9 projects in Valley get $12.4M state boost

Nine Mahoning Valley projects, led by the 20 Federal Place building in downtown Youngstown, received more than $12.4 million in state grants for brownfield remediation that will assist with economic development.

“Mahoning County getting assistance with five brownfield projects makes for a very good day,” said Deborah Flora, executive director of the Mahoning County Land Bank, which applied for four of the five grants with the Western Reserve Port Authority applying for the fifth. “It’s great to see all levels of government come together to make this happen.”

Three of the Mahoning County projects are in Youngstown with one each in Struthers and Sebring.

Those projects received a total of $9,187,610 while four in Trumbull County were awarded a total of $3,255,623.

The five Mahoning County sites “all hold tremendous potential for successful redevelopment,” Flora said. “These are priority locations in which the land bank, local governments and others have collectively invested significant time and effort, but lacked the necessary funding to proceed in a meaningful way.”

She said the state brownfield grants “turned out to be the critical missing piece for these important projects.”

The nine local projects were among 112 statewide getting $192 million in grants through the Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program as announced Friday by the Department of Development. The program has $350 million in it with $60 million for 78 projects, including $3.4 million for the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital in Warren, announced April 26.

20 FEDERAL PLACE

The largest local award is $6,962,250 for Youngstown’s 20 Federal Place.

The city will provide about $2.32 million of its own money toward the downtown project.

City officials said the redevelopment of the building at 20 W. Federal St., that could cost as much as $60 million, depended greatly on getting this grant.

The “program plays a critical role to activate the redevelopment of the 20 Federal building by supporting the demolition, asbestos and hazardous material removal,” said Mayor Jamael Tito Brown.

Jim Ambrose, director of business development for Desmone Architects — the Pittsburgh firm selected by the city to redevelop the building — said earlier this week the grant would fund the removal of asbestos and lead-based paint as well as partially demolish the building.

He said there are plans to apply for tax credits through the state Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program tax credit and the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. Projects that get state historical tax credits are eligible for federal tax credits. Between those programs and the brownfield grant, $30 million could be available for the 20 Federal Place project, he said.

“We do believe that this project will come together,” Ambrose said. “It’s just going to be a matter of patience and a matter of unlocking these various funding sources dedicated to this project to kick start it.”

Ambrose said his company’s plan includes demolishing the three-story mezzanine on the Commerce Street side of the building, where the food court is located; building 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 removal of 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.

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 decades, closing in 1986.

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

The remediation work at 20 Federal Place will take at least 12 months, Flora said.

The city will work with tenants at the building to find other locations for their businesses during the work. The building is less than 40 percent occupied.

“The city looks forward to working actively and collaboratively with tenants in the building to ensure their continued success in downtown Youngstown,” Brown said.

OTHER PROJECTS

Receiving the second-largest grant Friday in Mahoning County is the $1,492,670 cleanup and remediation of the former Royal China Co. site at 100 S.15th St. in Sebring.

The pottery facility was constructed in the 1890s with the business at its peak employing about 700 people and being one of the largest dinnerware plants in the nation, according to the Sebring Ohio Historical Society.

The business changed hands a few times before closing in 1986. A 2010 fire damaged many of the buildings on the property.

Chemicals from the pottery operation are present throughout the site with remediation occurring in the former shop, glazing and kiln areas as well as any water on the property, according to the governor’s office.

In total, 2,325 tons of contaminated soil will be removed and an equivalent amount of clean fill used, Flora said, in preparation of using it for economic development. Also, new storm sewers will be installed.

“The redevelopment potential is very positive there,” she said.

That work will take about 15 months to complete with the rest of the projects taking less time, Flora said.

The WRPA received a $496,000 grant for the cleanup of the final 5 acres of the 120-acre site that was once part of Youngstown Sheet & Tube in Struthers.

Two structures on the property require remediation before being rehabilitated.

Metal and petroleum contaminants will be removed in addition to groundwater remediation.

After it is cleaned up, the site will be redeveloped as a mixed-used facility for a new retail outlet, indoor sports training facility and small manufacturing operations while a portion along Yellow Creek and the Mahoning River will become a public park and a gathering space for outdoor activities, according to the governor’s office.

The two other cleanup and remediation projects backed by the land bank to get funding are in Youngstown.

One is $149,803 for 131 W. Woodland Ave., the former Potential Development School and a former Lutheran church and school.

Asbestos will be removed and the 102-year-old structure demolished.

The property will then be redeveloped as a 30-unit, two- and three-bedroom affordable housing townhouse complex.

It would be the first housing-credit property funded in more than 15 years in Mahoning County and will bring much-needed, affordable housing to Youngstown, according to the governor’s office.

The other project is $86,887 for 2307 Market St., a 101-year-old building that used to be the Fairmont Ice Cream Shop in the 1940s and 1950s. After that, the three-story building housed bars with apartments on the upper floors and has been vacant for more than a decade.

The building cannot be repaired and will be demolished after asbestos and other hazardous materials are removed.

The Trumbull County Land Bank was awarded funding for four projects.

The largest was $1,726,807 for the former Niles General Electric Glass plant.

Cleanup on the site includes contaminated soil remediation and groundwater remediation.

After the cleanup, the Cleveland Steel Container Corp. plans to move from its location at 412 Mason St. to the former GE site.

There is a 69,000-square-foot structure there and the company plans to build another 120,000-square-foot building to accommodate its operations, according to the governor’s office.

The other Trumbull projects are $1,173,434 for the former Gasification Plant in Warren; $55,382 for 999 Pine Ave. SE in Warren, the former Republic Steel office building; and $300,000 for an assessment of a 200-acre site at the former legacy Republic Steel plant.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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