Warren council debates Dana roadblock

WARREN — The owner of Auto Parkit is expected to receive another 90-day extension to have Dana Street NE blocked while he is redeveloping the former Delphi Packard Electric buildings and the GE building, Greg Greathouse, city council’s traffic and safety committee chairman, said.

Council periodically has been approving extensions to have Dana Street blocked to prevent vehicle traffic on the street outside of the buildings while businessman Christopher Alan, owner of Auto Parkit, has been redeveloping the properties.

Greathouse also requested having Alan return to the city to give council members a tour of the facilities, so they can see what progress has been made.

Council last approved a 90-day extension for blocking the street in September.

Alan attended a council caucus in December and gave an update on the progress of the Auto Parkit project, but council did not vote on the extension.

“We are overdue on voting on whether to agree on an extension,” Greathouse said.

With Monday’s unanimous approval of council’s traffic and safety committee, the full council is expected to approve an extension the next time a resolution is requested.

Alan requested the city place concrete barriers on Dana Street in 2016 to prevent vandalism, including the breaking of windows and the placement of graffiti on the former Delphi building.

Critics of having the road blocked questioned whether having the barriers are affecting existing businesses and if there are safety issues the city should be concerned about.

Councilman John Brown, D-at Large, said it appears that Alan eventually will seek to have Dana Street vacated.

“Mr. Alan suggested he eventually wants to close Dana Street permanently,” Brown said. “We are all for his success, but not at the peril of existing business or the safety of neighborhood residents.”

Brown asked for information looking at the additional amount of time it takes large fire trucks to travel around Dana Street to get to homes and businesses.

Law Director Enzo Cantalamessa said fire department officials have assured that closing off Dana Street does not significantly impact the time it takes for fire trucks to travel to area homes and businesses.

Cantalamessa was the city’s safety service director when the initial request to have the streets temporarily blocked was made.

He emphasized that vacation or elimination of a street is a long process, and at this point Alan has not made a formal request to vacate the street.

Community Development Director Michael Keys suggested that traffic and safety should not be council’s only concern when considering removing the barriers, but also economic development.

Keys said the city received more than $200,000 in grants to do a remediation study on the former Delphi building. The study found asbestos in the building that must be removed.

“At the time, the state said if we have an end user that will create new jobs, there could be additional money available,” Keys said.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, questioned what would happen if Alan walks away from the project without doing the cleanup, similar to what was done at the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital on Tod Avenue.

Keys said the estimated cost of remediation of St. Joseph Riverside is in the millions of dollars.

“On Dana Street, we are taking about three buildings,” Keys said. “Christopher Alan has already invested more than $5 million into this project.”

Keys said it is unlikely Alan would walk away from that investment.