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Port Authority Eyes Mahoning River Development

WARREN, Ohio — Requests for proposals are expected to go out in early September for two Mahoning River studies funded by $90,000 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Genna Petrolla, economic development planner with the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, told members of the Western Reserve Port Authority’s board of directors at their regular monthly meeting Wednesday that Eastgate would publish RFPs for the two studies, one focusing on the watershed and the other on a river corridor land use plan.

The studies are being funded by $90,000 from a settlement with LTV Corp. Ohio EPA presented the grant to Eastgate as part of the “Paddle the Mahoning River” event presented July 27 by Eastgate in partnership with the port authority and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

Local officials are pursuing funds to remove nine dams along the river, which over the past 40 years has started to clean itself to the degree that it can again support aquatic life. Total cost to remove the dams is estimated at $27 million, about $7 million of which is already funded.

Eastgate put together the scope of work for the watershed and land use studies earlier this week, Petrolla said. Funding authorities, such as state and federal agencies, will want both the watershed and land use studies.

“A lot of money is going into the cleaning process” and funders want to make sure whatever is built along the river “protects that investment,” she said.

While removal of the dams is important, board member Sam Covelli said even before that is accomplished there are things that could be done at relatively little expense to enhance the river asset that would have an impact on economic development.

“We need both,” he said.

In addition, students from a Kent State University graduate school class in urban design this coming semester will examine how the city of Struthers can more effectively utilize its river assets, said Sarah Lown, the port authority’s public finance manager.

“There are a lot of opportunities flanking the river,” Lown said. “Hopefully we can replicate some of the things we come up with for Struthers up and down the river.”

In other business, the port authority board voted to sell the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley’s former distribution center on Youngstown’s south side to Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. for $125,000 plus closing costs and fees.

The port authority had purchased the Glenwood Avenue building in May, with plans to sell the building to YNDC in 18 months after the development corporation secured funds for the purchase.

Ian Beniston, YNDC’s executive director, contacted the port authority this week to say he wanted to buy the building now, said Anthony Trevena, director of economic development for the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, the port authority’s economic development arm. YNDC secured grant funds to purchase the building sooner than expected, Trevena said.

YNDC plans to house small businesses in the building. Originally expected to offer 18,000 square feet of space, the building will now have an additional 3,000 square feet after an architect re-laid out the building, Trevena said. YNDC has already interviewed three prospective tenants, he reported.

Also, Trevena informed the board that Youngstown State University students would begin moving this weekend into The Enclave, the new student housing project at Lincoln and Wick avenues near YSU.

The port authority provided bond financing and other assistance to developer LRC Realty, Akron, for the $13 million project. The Enclave will offer 194 student beds and 11,000 square feet of retail space.