(WKBN) – The Youngstown Community Planning and Economic Development Committee held a meeting Tuesday to discuss the revitalization project of 20 Federal Place.
The committee heard from Jim Ambrose and Eric Booth of the Desmone Architects about updates on the proposed plans for the downtown building.
Two of the main topics they touched on were funding and building tenants.
“This is obviously one of your largest properties in downtown Youngstown and given its historical nature and the many transformations that have happened to it over the years, it is quite challenging and extensive to pull off,” said Ambrose, director of business development.
Currently, several sources of funding are being sought in order to support the project.
“To put these things together, it does take a lot of time and a lot of effort on the upfront to begin to unlock various funding sources that can help offset some of those really expensive costs that you would have in the outside of the building,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose says they collaborated with the landbank and the city’s team and submitted the grant application for the Brownfield Remediation Program on December 22 of last year. A first round of recipients was already announced, but none in Mahoning County were chosen.
The Transformational Mixed-Use Development Tax Credit will only be awarded to qualifying projects in the state of Ohio. This application cycle happens annually, and this year it is due in July. Right now, they are working with the city to gather letters of support and to submit an application.
The application for the state Historic Preservation Tax Credit is due in September.
“With that comes a required level of design and engineering and documentation that the state needs to see to be able to qualify for that particular application,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose also mentioned another funding opportunity that could be available.
“SB Bill 225, sponsored by Senator Schuring, and what that does is it increases the state’s max allocation for historic tax credits to double. That’s gonna be available for the next four funding cycles of the Historic Tax Credit. Therefore, we wanna get the project into one of those funding cycles because that goes from what we currently have slotted as a $4 million allocation net of fees, to a potential $8 million allocation. The reason why we would get double is because the region is considered a rural city, and Youngstown is deemed a distress city,” Ambrose said.
Overall, Ambrose said if selected, these funding sources could unlock roughly $30 million to go toward the project.
“It sounds like we need to get into every capitol opportunity, funding opportunity we possibly can,” said Councilwoman Lauren McNally.
Ambrose says despite the funding, one of the first steps to take to get the ball rolling is a hazardous material assessment, which he says the mayor already ordered that it was done last fall. The assessment revealed all the areas in the building that had hazardous material such as led based paint and asbestos.
In order to remove the hazardous material, some demolition will need to take place. However, that can’t happen until the funding comes through.
“What happens if the Brownfield grant doesn’t come through?” McNally asked. “Do we put up the money as the city, as part of demolition?”
“Right now, we haven’t modeled out any sort of financial scenario like that,” Ambrose said. “I think there’s probably a path where you can model like the city and the region handling it themselves and then there’s maybe a path where you leverage some of those other funding sources down the stream to make up for that.”
Councilman Julius Oliver made mention of the current tenants in the building and how this project could affect them.
“My concern is, I definitely want this project to work, but I also want to keep as many businesses as I can in the city and downtown. Whether they move back into the space or they move to a space close by, I just don’t want to lose a lot of businesses outside of the city in the meantime,” Oliver said.
Youngstown Finance Director Kyle Miasek responded to that concern saying the administration shares those same concerns.
“It’s that fine line of trying not to complicate those people’s businesses and their livelihoods and at the same time, you know, go down this path of being diligent and trying to secure the financing so that when we do make the announcement, one way or the other, we all are on the same path and the same understanding of what we’re going to do with 20 Federal,” he said.
Miasek went on to explain that the administration does want to remove itself from owning the commercial building.
“But at the same time, it is the major anchor of downtown, and that is why prior administrations chose to act and take ownership of it,” he said.
Miasek says the administration would not want to ask the businesses to vacate the building for demo to begin unless they are certain they will be able to tackle the project in its entirety and in a timely manner.
Nikki Posterli, chief of staff, said the city has put together a relocation strategy for when it’s time for the project to begin.
By the end of the meeting, it was determined that Miasek will have a discussion with the mayor and the city administration to decide where to go moving forward.