WARREN, Ohio – Just a few months after purchasing the former Mickey’s Army-Navy store building from the Western Reserve Port Authority, Downtown Development Group has leased 80% of its first-floor space.
Youngstown-based Flying High Inc. began moving June 1 into the 2,900 square-foot space it is leasing, said Jimmy DiCenso, vice president of sales/marketing. Another new tenant, Mariel Kim, a clothing retailer, should begin bringing inventory in this week ahead of a potential July 1 opening.
They will join existing tenants Subway and Dub City, a hair and beauty products retailer that has doubled its space in the two-level, 32,000-square-foot building, DiCenso said. He is in discussions with a tenant for the remaining ground-level space, which he expects to have completely leased by the end of summer.
“We are very pleased. We actually did not think we would move along at this pace for filling the area,” Mark Marvin, Downtown Development Group’s president, said.
The 231 Main Ave. SW property was donated to WRPA in January. The port authority approved an agreement the following month to sell the building to Marvin’s Bull and Rhino Land Co.
“The people of Warren are going to be very happy with what [Marvin] is doing with that building. He takes a lot of pride in what he does,” said the port authority’s CEO John Moliterno.
The Mickey’s property had been empty and falling into disrepair for several years, and bringing it back into productive use was important for the city and the community in general, Moliterno said. It’s likely important to Marvin as well, given its proximity to the Mahoning Building, one of several buildings on and near Warren’s Courthouse Square area that he has purchased and redeveloped.
“It was somewhat of a natural fit,” he said.
Under terms of the agreement, Marvin made a $35,000 down payment on the building, with the port authority drafting a $315,000 note that would be forgiven if Marvin’s brick-and-mortar investment in the building exceeded that figure.
Marvin said Friday he satisfied that commitment and will provide the documentation to the port authority in the next month or so.
“We have spent nearly $350,000 fixing the plaza and will probably spend an additional $50,000 prior to full completion and occupancy,” he reported. There also have been no surprises in the renovation so far, and he is optimistic there won’t be any.
Among the renovation expenses was completely replacing the building’s roof, which represented the renovation’s biggest challenge, DiCenso said.
“The roof was just in deplorable condition,” he remarked. “Luckily, most of the metal structure was in good shape. They had to replace maybe a few pieces of it but overall the structure of it was OK.”
Flying High, which provides job training and placement services for individuals who face employment barriers, plans to open a Trumbull County branch of its Professional Development Center, said Executive Director Jeff Magada. Magada anticipates a June 21 opening for that branch.
“That will be used to help people become prepared and qualified for employment and move them into the hundreds of jobs that are now available,” he said.
Flying High was interested in having the Trumbull County center close to downtown Warren with access to available bus routes, Magada said. He was connected to Marvin via the port authority as it was in the process of selling the building to the developer’s company.
As part of the renovation, the developer created an opening in the south wall of the space occupied by Dub City, allowing the retailer to expand to 3,450 square feet. Arnold and Kim Hall opened Dub City in January 2021, Arnold Hall said.
Before the expansion, customers could hardly walk in the small space, he said. With the additional space, Dub City is seeking new vendors to provide products.
Other improvements made to the building include repainting the building’s fascia, refurbishing several of its air handlers, installing new ceiling tiles throughout and replacing the lighting in the soffits.
As the ground level nears full occupancy, Downtown Development Group is continuing to work toward a longer-term goal for the basement level – a grocery store, something Courthouse Square now lacks but there is a growing need for with the emerging residential population downtown.
Marvin envisions a hybrid between a traditional grocery store and a farmer’s market style space where local vendors could set up during harvest and sell their product, though that would be determined by whatever entity ends up occupying the space.
“We have had a few conversations with two different companies but no firm commitments as yet,” Marvin said. “We feel that will probably take 12 to 18 months at best.”
Customers would come down the stairs or take a freight-style elevator into the basement level space, get their cart and do their shopping, DiCenso said. At checkout, their purchases would be placed in numbered bags matching a number on the receipt. After they check out, their shopping cart would be transported by conveyor to the backside of the building on the main level, and customers would drive their vehicle around to have their purchases loaded.
“It would take a little bit to upgrade the electric and things like that, but I think we would be able to handle it,” he said. He also was confident that the store would draw not just from downtown residents but people who work downtown, as well as throughout and even beyond Trumbull County.
Marvin might have been surprised by the speed at which the project came together, but WRPA’s Moliterno wasn’t.
“That’s how Mark Marvin operates,” he said. “He’s a hard worker and he’s not afraid to take on a challenge. He’s done that before and he did it again with this property.”
Pictured at top: In the coming months, the former Mickey’s Army-Navy store will welcome new tenants.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio. June 14, 2021. George Nelson.