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Council to set aside $800,000 for 20 Fed construction manager

YOUNGSTOWN — City council is expected Wednesday to approve legislation to spend up to $800,000 for a construction manager to oversee the 20 Federal Place redevelopment project.

But the project’s details and possibly its start date have changed, said Finance Director Kyle Miasek and Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works.

A contract was supposed to be awarded Oct. 31, with work starting Nov. 7, according to plans announced Aug. 11.

Miasek and Shasho said design work still is being done and architectural drawing haven’t been completed.

Construction to the city-owned downtown building at 20 W.Federal St. possibly could start in December though it could be sooner, Shasho said.

A Wednesday meeting with various entities involved with the project should clear up the timeline, he said.

City council’s finance committee met Monday to discuss Wednesday’s council agenda and recommended passage of a plan to hire a construction manager to oversee the project to the building that includes the removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials and a partial demolition.

Also, National Real Estate Development, a firm with a portfolio of more than $1 billion in development properties that has expressed “interest in pursuing an investment” in 20 Federal Place, wants to change the project’s focus so more housing is at the building, Miasek said.

“National is re-evaluating the demolition and architectural plans,” he said. “Because they are potentially funding this and are considering more housing instead of business development, that will determine the scope of the demolition and design modifications. They’re almost finished.”

The city signed a lease agreement on Aug. 15 with 20 Federal Place LLC for the building. That company was created by Desmone Architects, the Pittsburgh firm selected by the city to redevelop the building, and has National Real Estate’s address in Philadelphia listed on the agreement.

“We haven’t started the bid process, so it’s hard to say when construction would start,” Shasho said.

Bids could be accepted as early as Oct. 25 or Nov. 1, he said.

“We’ll be ready to bid it when we’re ready to bid it,” Shasho said.

Miasek said everything could be clarified Wednesday.

Regardless of when the project starts, it has to be finished by June 30, 2023, as part of a requirement of a state brownfield development grant the city received, Miasek said.

The city got a $6,962,250 Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program grant, announced June 18, for the proposed project. The city is providing $2.3 million in matching dollars.

The project’s total cost is expected to be $74 million.

An application for a $7.4 million Ohio Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program tax credit for the building as well as for Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program and the federal preservation funding, for a total of $24 million to $26 million in tax credits, have been submitted.

Desmone’s plan for the 332,000-square-foot building, 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 remove 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.

But Miasek said Monday that National wants to add more apartments to the project.

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.

ARP SPENDING

Council’s finance committee also agreed Monday to forward legislation sponsored by Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, to provide $200,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to the Western Reserve Port Authority to focus investments on Mahoning Avenue, one of the major corridors on the city’s West Side.

Ray said there’s been considerable investments along the road, including Voyager Specialty Coffee & Teas, which is relocating its production and distribution operations from Canfield to 1586 Mahoning Ave. and will open a coffeehouse at 1588 Mahoning Ave. WRPA sold the two buildings last year for $100,000 to Voyager.

“We’d like to see the ($200,000) used for physical improvements to benefit economic development and stabilize Mahoning Avenue,” Ray said.

Council authorized giving each of its seven members $2 million in ARP funds April 6 to be used in the wards.

Council so far has approved legislation for about $1 million of that $14 million allocation.

As he has done with previous legislation approved by council as part of its funding, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said Monday “there are pieces missing to move” this project forward in order to comply with federal guidelines for using ARP money.

He said the board of control — which consists of himself, Miasek and Law Director Jeff Limbian — won’t approve the council-backed proposals until its members are comfortable the ordinances are complete and follow federal law.

“It’s not that we’re vetting it for approval, we’re vetting it to get it passed through BOC and that we know we’re spending appropriate dollars and we’re not going to have any peel backs on these dollars,” he said.

The only council-backed ARP allocation approved to date by the board of control is a $160,000 purchase of a former McDonald’s restaurant at 2525 Market St. to turn it into a police substation.

Also on council’s Wednesday agenda is a $30,000 ARP appropriation sponsored by Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, for a mobile market to provide fresh food in his ward.

Council members have said they are frustrated with the administration’s reluctance to authorize their ARP allocations though no one brought it up at Monday’s finance committee meeting.

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