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Residents of International Towers downtown must evacuate by Friday

YOUNGSTOWN — Residents of International Towers, next door to the heavily damaged Realty Tower, have until noon Friday to evacuate the building.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s office sent a statement Wednesday saying that representatives from various area social services organizations are working “to coordinate the temporary relocation of residents in International Towers. The process is now underway with social services actively working to place residents in temporary locations.”

It adds: “Once all resident placements have been confirmed, the Youngstown Fire Department and Youngstown Police Department will conduct a floor-by-floor, unit-by-unit safety and welfare check.”

After a structural engineering firm examined Realty Tower, severely damaged in a May 28 explosion, it determined Monday that the nearby International Towers, where about 170 people live, had to be evacuated because Realty could collapse.

Barber & Hoffman Consulting Engineers, the firm hired by the city, recommended everything within a 210-foot radius of Realty be closed as it’s a “collapse zone.”

That also includes the Stambaugh Building, which is the home of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, and has been closed since the May 28 explosion.

It isn’t known how long International Towers, a 16-story building for lower-income seniors and those with disabilities, and the Stambaugh Building will be closed.

Regarding International Towers, Brown’s office said: “It is our goal to ensure that the core services and needs the residents rely on are not disrupted. To that end, providers have collected information from all residents and will continually deliver services to them throughout this temporary relocation.”

It added, “We know this is an incredibly difficult situation for all of the residents at International Towers and the city is continuing to work hard towards a solution regarding the status of Realty Tower so they can return home as quickly as possible.”

The explosion in the basement of Realty was so bad that the Chase Bank branch on the first floor collapsed in multiple areas — killing a bank employee — and the residents of the 23 apartments at the Central Square building haven’t been able to return home since May 28, leaving behind nearly all of their possessions.

In its report, Barber & Hoffman wrote Realty “is in a dangerous condition” and “in imminent danger of collapse without modification to replace the function of the ground floor diaphragm.”

Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works, said at a Tuesday news conference that city officials expect from Realty’s owners “a plan of action for either temporary stabilization or a schedule, either a decision on whether the building is going to come down or not based upon this very initial report.”

Structural engineers for the owner of the building – YO Properties 47 LLC – as well as that company’s insurance company are also looking at Realty.

Six minutes after a gas line at Realty Tower was cut for the third time on May 28, an explosion occurred, heavily damaging the building.

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 National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation, has preliminarily found that 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 “inspections” of the explosion: one on GreenHeart and the other on Chase.

Have an interesting story? Contact David Skolnick by email at dskolnick@vindy.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @dskolnick.

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