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Senator Brown Wants Help After Realty Tower Explosion – Business Journal Daily

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As demolition of the Realty Tower begins Thursday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown met with stakeholders to see if he can help residents or business owners downtown.

Brown, an Ohio Democrat, met Monday with business owners and employees, residents, government officials and community members affected by the May 28 explosion at the downtown Realty Tower.

“There are dozens of people who are homeless right now and living in different places,” Brown said during a press conference after the roundtable, which was closed to the media. “My job is to try to help them. I chair the banking and housing committee.”

He said he wanted to listen to those affected and find ways his office could help.

Brown said one entrepreneur who attended the roundtable noted that the real estate market exploded after road construction and the pandemic hit, negatively impacting downtown businesses.

“It’s clear we have a lot of work to do,” Brown said.

The explosion killed one man, a Chase Bank employee on the building’s first floor, injured several others and displaced Realty residents. The Stambaugh Building across the street, which houses the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and Bistro 1907, has been closed since the explosion because of its proximity to Realty.

In mid-June, International Towers, next door to Realty, was evacuated after city-hired engineers determined that Realty was “in imminent danger of collapse” if no modifications were made.

The building’s owner, Yo Properties 47 LLC, plans to demolish the historic structure and filed paperwork with the Mahoning County Building Inspection Department last week.

However, a group of residents attempted to save the building, citing its historical significance and the fact that it is a pillar of the downtown area.

Brown declined to comment on the decision, saying it was a local decision.

“I will help with federal law in any way I can,” he said. “I will help with federal dollars if I can. We did that with East Palestine. We will do it here if we can work with the local people and figure it out. … It is not my job to decide what to do with the building.”

One option is to reallocate federal funds already earmarked for the city to improve infrastructure, he said. That could be in the form of grants or low-interest loans.

The building’s owner is moving forward with plans to demolish it. A statement last week from Brian Angelilli, a Yo Properties board member, said the building “is no longer safe or habitable” and that it is in the best interest of public safety to demolish it.

Moderalli Excavating of Poland submitted a demolition plan to Angelilli dated July 1, which was included in the documents submitted to the Department of Buildings. The contract amount listed in the documents is $1.8 million.

The plan is for demolition to begin at the top of the building, starting with a crane and wrecking ball. The structure will be taken down floor by floor. Fencing will be placed to enclose the areas where work is being done. As for the building’s support, missing crossbars will be replaced and a beam will be added to reinforce a vertical column that has been damaged, according to the plan.

Outside the building, curbs, roads and sidewalks will be removed if necessary and hauled away, the plan said. Some trees, branches and plants may also be removed. All utilities will be capped if necessary, and walls will be removed three feet below grade. The basement floor will be torn up to allow for drainage.

According to the demolition plan submitted by the contractor, the building “will be filled with a mixture of clay and shale and compacted with a vibratory roller” and the ground will be levelled to ensure good drainage.

Work is set to begin Thursday, and Aug. 31 is listed as a completion date on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s demolition notice, which was among the documents provided to the building department. But city officials said the company’s goal is to demolish enough of the building by Aug. 2 so that International Towers residents can return to their homes and businesses can reopen.

City firefighters are scheduled to go into Realty Tower on Wednesday to collect items residents have listed that they would like to have back. The items must fit in a 22”x14”x9” bag.

Bob Hannon, president of United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, participated in a Monday roundtable with Brown. He said 170 International Towers residents have been living in hotels, nursing homes and assisted living facilities since the evacuation.

“Our funding for these people ends July 15,” Hannon said. “So the immediate issue is how do we get funding from July 16 to Aug. 2 to continue to support them in hotels, nursing homes … wherever they are.”

He estimated the amount needed was $85,000. The agency spent about $170,000 on the first month of housing and food stamps for International Towers residents.

United Way has formed City Center Reconstruction Fund collect donations.

Hannon hopes Brown will secure federal funding to help downtown residents or businesses.

Residents of the International Towers are anxious and want to know when they will be able to return to their homes, he added.

“The hotel stay works, but they’ve lost their identity and community,” Hannon said. “It’s their home. It’s where they live. It’s where they socialize.”

He added that there were concerns about the owners of Realty Tower.

“I think the owners and management of International Towers have been very open and have taken a stand,” Hannon said.

“Where were the owners of Realty Tower? We didn’t hear from them. We talk to International every day. I think there could be more dialogue with Realty Tower — maybe they could step up and be more vocal. I think their lack of voice in this has caused some people to worry that maybe they should do more.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.