WARREN - Now that the election is over, Councilman Alford Novak says work has to begin.
Novak, D-2nd Ward, plans to ask the administration this week to invite area politicians, such as U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, state Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, state Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, and others to a summit to discuss ways the city can eliminate blight created by abandoned industrial and commercial buildings.
Novak says there are more than 100 abandoned industrial and commercial sites around the city that either need to be demolished or rehabilitated.
"There are nightmares like the former St. Joseph Hospital Riverside building on Tod Avenue that have through different owners over the years that need to be torn down," Novak said. "People are going through them and taking all of the pipes, wiring and anything of value out of them. The ceilings are falling down. They are wide open."
While he considers St. Joseph Hospital the city's biggest eyesore and potential hazard, it is not the only building he says needs addressed.
There is the former Commercial Construction on Griswold; the Kundle Industries Building on Forest N.W.; the former Garden Terrance Apartments, located across from St. Joseph's Hospital on Tod Avenue; as well as the Austin Village Plaza on West Market Street.
Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith
Warren Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, is looking for help in getting additional funds so the city can have abandoned industrial and commercial building sites cleaned and eventually torn down.
Although appreciative the city is receiving Moving Ohio Forward money to tear down residential properties, Novak said movement on reducing the number of abandoned commercial and industrial buildings must be made soon.
"Having these building around tax our fire and police departments because they are safety hazards," he said. "The fire department has been in some of these building three and four times. Because many of these buildings are open, people could go it and get hurt. They may not be found for days."
The former Kundle Industries building, 292 Forest St., had several fires in it over the last several years, according to Novak.
"I've had some neighbors of the building say they are afraid of putting money in their homes, because they do not see the point with this eyesore across the street from them," Novak said.
The councilman would like to see the city work with state and federal agencies to see if there can be an expansion in how the federal brownfield money may be used to clean up the properties. He also would like the federal and state officers of the Environmental Protection Agencies to work closely with cities and private property owners, so they can get the properties cleaned up and redeveloped for some kind of use.
"We have companies that are growing and want to expand, but the cost of environmental cleanup of adjacent properties are too much for them," Novak said. "If we can increase the amount of money available for brownfield cleanup, it would help."
Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at large, says that some kind of summit would be helpful, but adds that property owners must be at the table and held accountable.
"We are hamstrung by owners that do not step up," Rucker said. "The owners of the buildings have some responsibility.''
Addressing some of the blight of abandoned commercial and industrial buildings would help the city market itself by eliminating eyesores that make some potential investors look to other communities.
Councilman Edward Colbert, D-7th Ward, said there are some property owners who will work with the city.
"Joseph Shafran, owner of the Austin Village Plaza, has worked with the city in the creation of the West Warren Industrial project, a private/public development corporation designed to get investment on the city's west side," Colbert said. "We were talking about getting a wind testing turbine on the plaza. I don't know what happened with that idea."
Colbert said getting locations like the Austin Village plaza cleaned up and, perhaps, placing a wind turbine there, would serve as a way to show people that Warren is a place they may want to work and live.
Nicole Filippidis, a manager at Top Shelf Coffee, 361 Griswold, said her family has been interested in obtaining the former Commercial Construction Co. building for years, but could not afford to purchase it and to tear it down. Jordan Filippidis has owned Top Shelf Coffee for more than 20 years.
"If the city could get it torn down I'm sure my father would be interested in getting the property," she said. "If for nothing else to get rid of the eyesore. It looks terrible."