NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Most of the buildings with any historic value in downtown Niles were demolished during the urban renewal project of the 1970s. Now, there’s an effort to get rid of two of them that are left.
Steve Mientkiewicz is Niles’ mayor, realtor Jason Altobelli is president of the Niles Community Improvement Corporation and Shawn Carvin runs the Trumbull County Land Bank. All agree it’s time to demolish the former Robins Theater and Reisman’s Furniture Store buildings in downtown Niles.
“It’s sat on the market for years and years and years with no interest and there must be a reason why,” Mientkiewicz said.
“I’ve seen all the reports, I’ve read the fire inspections and I do believe they are a hazard,” Carvin said.
“I think they’ve been that way for so long that if someone was going to redevelop it, it would have happened,” Altobelli said.
Demolishing the buildings will cost $600,000. Niles plans to apply for a grant through Ohio’s new Building Demolition and Site Revitalization program to pay 75 percent of the cost.
They were recently examined by the Trumbull County building inspector.
“The report came back to either rehab at an astronomical cost or demolish,” Mientkiewicz said.
Renovating Warren’s Robins Theater was $5 million. Altobelli estimates renovating the Niles theater would be that plus 30 percent.
“Yeah, it’d be a tremendous undertaking. I mean, the cost would be really, really high,” Altobelli said.
“You need one person with two things: a little bit of vision and a lot of money,” Mientkiewicz said.
Once the buildings are gone, then what? Mientkiewicz envisions something similar to downtown Youngstown’s Phelps Street project.
“Outdoor flower pots and flower gardens. A little bit of green space, trees, fencing, that kind of stuff. A place where we can bring in food trucks, musical acts,” Mientkiewicz said.
“You have a river, you have a bike trail, you have a national monument, so you can leverage all that. Then as far as redeveloping it, you have to find the highest and best use,” Altobelli said.
The grant to demolish the Niles buildings will be lumped into a $9 million request by the Trumbull County Land Bank to demolish 206 buildings and houses throughout the county.
If all goes well, the buildings in Niles could be coming down around this time next year.