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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board and the Western Reserve Port Authority will partner to redevelop the former Youngstown Developmental Center in Austintown, the agencies announced Thursday.

The mental health board and the port authority’s economic development staff will develop a plan over the next six months for the property, said Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the county board. The objective is to offer services there to help vulnerable populations including people with mental health or addiction issues, children, individuals with autism and senior citizens.

“We wanted to restore the developmental center to help the community,” Piccirilli said. The state of Ohio closed the center last year.

Piccirilli said his agency has been in discussion with entities including Meridian HealthCare, Compass Family & Community Services and Alta Care Group about potentially providing services at the County Line Road site.

“We deal with economic development projects all over, but when we’re able to be involved in a development project such as this that helps a part of the community that needs that help so much, that excites us very much,” said John Moliterno, executive director of the port authority. The property has 15 buildings, including 11 cottages.

“What we do is we work with disabled people. We have a good network with all the agencies, but we’re not in the business of developing this kind of a project,” Piccirilli said. “That’s what [the port authority] does well.”

The mental health board has three years to develop a plan for and take possession of the property, according to a provision placed in the most recent state budget, Piccirilli said. Until the board takes possession, the state will continue to maintain the property, he said.

The port authority already has been showing the property to entities interested in buying or renting structures on the site, Molitnero said.

Part of the port authority’s role will be to develop leases, Piccirillii said.

“They’re helping us develop a structure that will work,” he said. “People will possibly own or rent-to-own the different properties. We’re trying very hard to have a population that will fit into that area.”

As the plans are developed, the mental health board and port authority will meet with neighbors who could potentially take advantage of recreational space on the site, he said.

He also said Alta received a small grant to develop a business plan for a food service using the campus’ industrial kitchen. It would potentially provide meals for Head Start and for home delivery to senior citizens

“There’s a lot of work to be done yet, of course, but I think that we have the right organizations and individuals involved in this project,” Moliterno said. “We’re excited about it. We think there’s tremendous opportunity.”

The Mahoning County commissioners were pleased with the announcement, which took place as part of their scheduled meeting Thursday morning, even as they criticized the state’s decision to close the developmental center.

“There’s a lot of groups that need help, a lot of entities that are going to be supported through this,” Commissioner David Ditzler said.

“Mahoning County embraces economic development and we embrace facilities that are going to help people,” Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said. She also called the center’s closing last year “a slap to the community’s face.”

Pictured: Western Reserve Port Authority Executive Director John Moliterno joined Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board Executive Director Duane Piccirilli Thursday to announce plans to redevelop the former Youngstown Developmental Center.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.