City looks to develop former Westlawn property

WARREN — Looking to move approximately 20 acres on the city’s southwest side to a private developer, the administration has asked council to deem 87 parcels in the area once known as Westlawn no longer needed for municipal purposes.

With that designation, the administration will be able to place the parcels on a list of properties that can be turned over to Western Reserve Port Authority for sale or transfer. Community Development Director Michael Keys said obtaining the designation does not mean the city has an immediate proposal that must be acted upon.

“Something could be done within six months or as long as two years,” Keys said. “We do not know. Having the ability to move the property quickly provides assurances to potential developers.”

“There has been some interest, but the city has not received a business plan or been given a financial proposal by anyone or any group,” Keys said. “However, I would like to have the authority to provide soft assurances to developers that the property is available to be sold or leased. I cannot do it without this legislation.”

The property is zoned residential, but zoning can be changed based on the need.

Warren Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, has scheduled an economic development committee meeting on May 15 to discuss the request.

The former Westlawn parcels are located between Loveless Avenue SW on the west, Nevada Ave SW to the east, Victoria Street SW to the north and Hamilton Street SW to the south. The vacant land has been undeveloped for more than 25 years.

It has been talked about by council and administration officials for development, due, in part, because there are no structures on it that need to be demolished. In addition, the property is next to the former Western Reserve schooll and near Deemer Park.

The city owns the former Westlawn parcels and Deemer Park. The Warren City School District owns the Western Reserve property. Combined, the area has more than 60 acres that can be developed.

The Port Authority for at least two years has been transferring city-owned properties to private companies or to non-profits for future projects under an agreement with the city. Depending on the project, the city either sold the properties at market rates or transferred them at lower costs to facilitate the transfer.

The most significant transfers have been the former Warren SCOPE Building, 220 W. Market St., to Downtown Development Group LLC and the former Owen Morgan House, 328 Mahoning Ave., to the Trumbull County Historical Society.

Downtown Development Group LLC purchased the former Warren SCOPE building for $216,000 and the Trumbull County Historical Society was allowed to purchase the Owen Morgan House for $1.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, Mayor Doug Franklin told council a representative of the company looking at possibly developing the property was in the audience.

However, when approached by the Tribune Chronicle, the person identified by Franklin declined to provide any information about what the proposed project is.

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D- at Large, who formerly was the 7th Ward councilman where the Westlawn property is located, said utilities are already in the area and there is light rail.

“Most of our industrial parks are full or near full,” Colbert said. “From the standpoint of expanding our industry, it is one of the only places where there is a relatively large footprint.”