YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A business owner and manager want answers after the city of Youngstown ordered an emergency demolition of their South Avenue building Monday. They say there were several thousands of dollars worth of equipment and recent work that had been done inside the building.
They are also claiming they received no notice that the building would be torn down.
“There was just absolutely no notice, and it’s devastating to not only our business but our community that we work so hard to put back into,” said Jennipher Carter, project manager with Diamond Property Group.
3309 South Avenue was formerly Isaly’s Restaurant. In 2020, it was acquired by a new owner.
The structure was actually two connected buildings, both of which were torn down. Carter said one side was being renovated to open as a sports bar and the other side was being used as storage.
She says new coolers, new plumbing and electrical work, renovation materials and more were inside the building when it was torn down.
“We had over $100,000 worth of commercial-grade kitchen equipment, we just got a brand new air conditioner, $20,000, we had all of our video surveillance equipment in the basement in a panel, with TVs on the walls, we had audio equipment,” she said.
Carter says in March, someone hit the south end of the building, leaving a hole and damage to the basement. But, she says the hole was boarded up and the building was in the process of being repaired.
“We had a contractor in on Saturday and Sunday, that walked the property inside and out and we had plans on securing permits and beginning to seal up the building as well as the hole,” she said.
However, Monday, Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley ordered an emergency demolition of the property because it was deemed unsafe. Carter says they were never notified.
“It was just a hole that we could have if we were contacted, and the city would’ve said, ‘This is an emergency situation,’ ok, I would’ve been able to tell you of our plans,” she said.
Records sent to First News by the building’s owner show estimates from the beginning of April for repairs to be made, insurance coverage policies, and a voicemail on information about obtaining permits.
We also obtained a video that shows the basement damage and beams that were put in place to hold the structure up until work was completed.
We reached out to Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian who says he has full confidence that the city acted appropriately and according to the law.
Youngstown Codified Ordinance 1525.01 states that the fire chief has the authority to order an emergency demolition, without notifying the property owner, if a property is deemed a safety hazard. It does, however, state that a notice must be posted at each entrance of the structure.
Carter claims there was no notice posted.
“There was nothing. Nothing posted on any of the doors, any of the windows that were boarded up, nothing,” she said.
She also says their security system never alerted them of anyone entering the building, which makes them believe a thorough inspection was never done.
We asked Limbian if it is part of the procedure to inspect the inside of a building before ordering a demolition. He said the chief does an initial analysis to see if it’s safe to enter and if it is safe, he enters and if not, he tags it, as necessary.
He also says he believes the chief followed proper protocol and if a notice had to be posted, he believes it was.
He says if the city and the owner cannot resolve things, then the matter may go to court.
First News has placed a public records request with the city for the investigation report leading up to the demolition.