Port Authority to lease office space for visibility

YOUNGSTOWN – Economic Development efforts for the Western Reserve Port Authority soon will be based out of a more visible downtown Youngtown office, the port authority board decided Wednesday.

Port Executive Director Rose Ann DeLeon, whose main base of operations has been in an approximately 250-square-foot office inside the Youngstown Business Incubator, now will operate out of about 2,000 square feet at the corner of North Champion Street and Rayen Avenue near the Youngstown State University campus.

DeLeon, who handles economic development and financing efforts for the port authority, said visibility will increase with the first-floor location, signage, conference room space and handicapped accessibility. Rent, however, also will increase from about $145 per month to $833 per month.

DeLeon will share the space with Senior Manager Sarah Lown, the Mahoning River Consortium and planned college interns.

The move became necessary, port officials said, because the Youngstown Business Incubator, or YBI, was in need of the port authority’s existing leased space to accommodate growth brought about by the downtown addition of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Barb Ewing, chief operating officer of YBI, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

The port authority board voted 5-0 in favor of the move, with board member Andre Visnapuu abstaining and Richard Schiraldi recusing himself due to a conflict of interest. Richard Musick was absent.

In other business, the port authority voted unanimously to authorize DeLeon to finalize and execute financing for Simon Property’s energy upgrades at the Southern Park Mall in Boardman.

Property general manager Pam Ferguson said plans to upgrade the mall’s roof, lighting, heating and air conditioning systems will be done in two phases. The company intends to finance between $3 million and $4 million through the port authority.

“It certainly will improve the aesthetics as well as energy efficiency,” Ferguson said of planned upgrades to more energy efficient lighting throughout the shopping center.

Work is expected to begin in early 2014.