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City nears St. Joe’s teardown

$2.5M state grant to help pay for asbestos removal at former Riverside hospital

WARREN — Two of the city’s biggest eyesores and hazardous sites are on the path to being demolished, according to Warren Mayor Doug Franklin.

The city recently received an approximately $2.5 million grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency to have the asbestos removed from the old St. Joseph Riverside Hospital.

“Based on our early estimates, that should be about half of the amount we need for the asbestos removal,” Franklin said. “We have several options on how to pay for the remainder of the costs.”

People already have been doing tests at the former hospital site for the asbestos removal.

The hospital is in the possession of the Trumbull County Land Bank, which, according to Community Development Director Michael Keys, is allowing the city to do whatever is needed to facilitate its demolition.

Mostly unused since the emergency room closed in June 1996, the vacant building now is home to empty beer cans, broken glass, jagged remains of the pipes cut away for scrap, graphic graffiti, animals and vagrants.

It sits in a residential neighborhood and is next to active facilities, some so close the employees park under the boarded up windows — including a Mercy Health outpatient clinic, a Veterans Affairs clinic and even a domestic violence shelter for women and children.

The city expects to take down the building sometime in 2022, according to Franklin.

Once the asbestos is removed, the city expects the cost of the demolition will be between $2.5 million and $3 million. However, it could cost less.

The city also is going to take down the Downtown Motor Inn, 777 Mahoning Ave. NW, which has increasingly become a problem for the city since the pandemic and there has been no one renting the rooms. Even before the pandemic only a small portion of the motel had been used.

Since that time, the city has had to fill in a small swimming pool on the site.

For Councilman Larry Larson, D-1st Ward, and Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, the announcement the state is providing the funds for the asbestos removal at the former hospital and expected demolition of the motel came at a good time.

Novak, who was defeated in the primary election earlier this year, said he wanted to see real progress in getting these two building torn down before he left office.

“I’ve taken many people through the hospital, so they could see the condition themselves,” Novak said. “One of the last people I took in there was Councilman Larson.”

Larson, who represents the ward where the hospital in located, fought to see the building demolished even before being elected to council as a member of the Northwest Neighborhood Association.

Councilman Gary Steinbeck, D-at Large, noted the demolition of the former hospital will be a benefit for the entire city, especially residents of the city’s north side.

Official have been attempting to get the owners Dilawerhussein H. Dinani and Haiderali Ladha, a partnership consisting of U.H. Dinani and H.H. Ladha, either to renovate the site or have it demolished.

“Over the last eight years, we’ve made a concerted effort to demolish old, deteriorating commercial properties,” Franklin said. “I signed to accept the funds last week. Getting the money to remove the asbestos was the missing piece in getting the building torn down. There was never the money in our budget to do the asbestos removal.”

The motel demolition is part of a project that will take down eight residential and two commercial properties for $133,500. One is the building next to the former A&W restaurant on Youngstown Road and the other is a former used car lot on South Street, according to Keys.

The demolition work will be done by Holton Inc. This is a combined project of the city, Community Development Block Grant and the building department.

Demolition of these buildings is scheduled to begin over the next month. The work is being provided by the city’s CD department using block grant funds.

Franklin said the city has used CDBG funds to knock down other commercial buildings.

While the city prefers the property owners take down the buildings, Franklin said sometimes it is more efficient for the city to find ways to have dangerous eyesores demolished.

Franklin said the city still is working on finding a possible buyer for 418 S. Main Ave. , where several of the city’s departments, including Community Development, Health and others, formerly were located before moving into their current location at the Warren Government Service Center, 258 E. Market St.

“We have several businesses looking at it,” Franklin said.

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