Realty Tower to be razed

YOUNGSTOWN — The historic Realty Tower downtown will be demolished after its owners said they met with several engineers who expressed significant concerns regarding the ability to safely stabilize the building following a May 28 explosion.

The office of Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said in a news release that he and other city officials met with the building owners, YO Properties 47 LLC, on Monday afternoon, who said they plan to demolish Realty Tower. Brown said city officials will meet with the owners throughout the week to get details on the demolition plan.

“While we are disappointed that such a prominent and historic downtown building cannot be saved, we are thankful to be moving forward with a resolution to safely get residents home and downtown businesses open,” Brown states in the release.

On June 11, the structural engineering firm hired by the city to examine the Realty Tower, 47 E. Federal St., recommended the evacuation of the International Towers building next door because the Realty Tower was in imminent danger of collapse. Residents of the International Towers, 25 Market St., were evacuated Friday.

The board of control on June 6 approved a $7,500 initial contract with Barber & Hoffman for the firm to determine if the building will collapse as the result of the explosion, and if debris could be moved to check on the building’s structural integrity, said Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation into the explosion at Realty, asked the city to hire a “neutral party” to serve as structural engineer to determine “if it’s even safe for them to enter the building,” Brown said.

Shasho said at that meeting, “The building is not safe to enter. It’s not going to be safe. There’s always going to be a danger there. It’s partially destroyed. What they (NTSB) want to know is, is there an imminent failure? That’s the key phrase here.”

No one has been permitted inside the building since shortly after the explosion.

The city is using the services of ProQuality Demolition, a Youngstown company, to help Barber & Hoffman move some of the construction debris. ProQuality was hired on an emergency basis with the work being documented for payment, Shasho said.

The building is owned by YO Properties 47 LLC. Six minutes after a gas line at Realty Tower was cut for the third time, an explosion occurred, heavily damaging the building, including the Chase Bank branch on the first floor. Akil Drake, 27, a Chase employee, was killed in the explosion.

GreenHeart Companies of Boardman was working to relocate the building’s utility lines when the gas line was cut, according to city documents and officials.

The NTSB preliminarily has found the gas line in the basement being cut caused the explosion.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened two investigations of the explosion — one on GreenHeart and the other on Chase. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is also investigating the cause.

The damage was so extensive that the city closed the nearby Stambaugh Building, home of the DoubleTree by Hilton, the only hotel in Youngstown, as well as nearby streets.

On Friday, Brown said city officials gave YO Properties 47 LLC until the end of the day Monday to come up with a plan of action for Realty Tower.

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