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Port Authority Nears Acquisition of Former Republic Site

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority entered into an agreement with BDM Warren Steel Holdings LLC to accept the former Republic Steel property in Warren.

The port authority signed the donation agreement two weeks ago and is performing due diligence on the property before the property transfer takes place.

“It’s not in our hands yet,” said WRPA CEO John Moliterno following the port authority’s monthly meeting on Wednesday. “We’ve got to know what our obligations are before we take it on.”

Moliterno disclosed the agreement during a presentation on the port authority’s activities over the past two years during the meeting, attended virtually and in person by members of the boards of commissioners of Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

In January, the port authority authorized Moliterno to negotiate an agreement with BDM to accept the approximately 1,000-acre industrial property.

WRPA became involved with the property at the urging of JobsOhio, the private nonprofit entity that manages the state’s economic development efforts, Moliterno said. The site’s owner, Charles Betters, initially approached JobsOhio about accepting the property which then referred him to the port authority as “a better entity” to handle the property.

“They told us they have very few sites on their listing that size,” he said.

In addition, he indicated that JobsOhio officials expressed intent to provide the port authority assistance with the project, though no dollar amounts were discussed. Representatives have worked closely with the port authority, including arranging informational meetings with WRPA.

JobsOhio has several programs that potentially could come into play, Anthony Trevena, the port authority’s chief operating officer, said. “We haven’t explored all the programs yet,” he said.

“I don’t doubt for a moment their commitment toward bringing jobs to that site into the future,” Moliterno affirmed. “We feel comfortable we’ll be able to get additional assistance from them.”

He also said “serious” conversations with potential end users wont take place until the port authority officially takes title to the property. It has another 30 days in the 45-day agreement.

The review with the Trumbull and Mahoning county commissioners addressed all aspects of WRPA’s operations during the past two years, highlighting its roles in recent major regional projects including the Ultium Cells and the TJX Companies’ HomeGoods distribution center. The port authority also has agreements with the cities of Youngstown and Warren to assist with development of properties as well as the expansion of student housing near Youngstown State University and the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care.

During the meeting, the port authority’s board voted to enter into a lease agreement with Gionino’s Pizzeria of Boardman LLC for the remaining 1,500-square foot tenant space at 3900 Market St., Boardman, where a new Dunkin Donuts is being built.

Last year, TCF Bank donated the property to the port authority to redevelop. WRPA recently received a “very extensive” letter of interest from Gionino’s Pizzeria franchisee Gust Spilos of Ravenna, that “covered a lot of ground,” Trevena said. He expects finalizing the lease not to take long.

Spilos said he wants to be in the location sometime in October. He was near a deal at a site about a mile south when the port authority approached him. The heavier traffic flow at the port authority’s site, which is at the Youngstown-Boardman border, and the location by a Dunkin Donuts, made choosing that site “almost a no-brainer,” he said.

It would be Spilos’ fifth Gionino’s Pizzeria in Mahoning County and his 10th overall, Spilos said. He noted that Gionino’s was voted the best Brier Hill pizza in Mahoning County in a recent competition.

“We’ll be the hometown favorite of Boardman,” he predicted.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio. George Nelson. April 22, 2021.