STEUBENVILLE — Consultants have already begun gathering information to help develop a strategy for redeveloping the old Exchange Realty Building in Steubenville’s commercial historic district.
Allison Gray-Gunsten, vice president and midwest team leader for the St. Louis-based consulting firm doing the study, Steadfast City, told council the Exchange Realty building is “one of the most impactful development opportunities you have for the downtown, there’s over 47,000 square feet.”
“I think this is a building where, if you can show that you can attract both local, regional and national investment there, what (that could) mean to the rest of the downtown area,”Gray-Gunsten said, adding, “A lot of this feasbility study and market study is going to be about the downtown as a whole.”
Earlier this year Opportunity Appalachia awarded the Jefferson County Port Authority a Prepared Communities technical assistance grant to do a market feasibility study, build a financial model and develop a prospectus for the building, which locals hope can be transformed into market-rate housing or mixed-use office and housing. The preliminary construction vision is for 15-20 loft apartments with ground level restaurants, coffee shops, retail and office space.
Port Authority Executive Director Robert Naylor previously said the price tag for redeveloping the property could reach $10 million or more.
“When the Port Authority was awarded (its) Prepared Communities grant in 2021, one of the recommendations was to revitalize downtown Steubenville,” Naylor said. “Most local officials and residents believe the Exchange Realty Building represents one of the most impactful development opportunities in the city’s Historic Commercial Business District. The successful renovation of (it) would spark other development opportunities and promote downtown business development.”
Gray-Gunsten said a “lot of this feasibility study and market study is going to be about the downtown as a whole.” She and Katie Ward, project manager, said there’s “a lot” of state and local funding available right now for project’s like Exchange Realty.
“If we are fortunate and get the financing … (the building owner) may want to participate in the process,” she said. “If we can’t get financing, we have to have a Plan B, which I’ve said all along. It could need to be torn down, but when we went through it today, it has good bones … but I will tell you it has a big price tag — $925,000 is the price they got in March to remove the asbestos and do the roof, and I assume the price went up since.”
She said they have to “be able to cash flow this … through marketing and bring in revenue into the equation.”
In other action:
— Council also held a public hearing on a proposal from Common Spirit Health, the Colorado non-profit that owns Trinity Medical Center, to issue $58 million in tax exempt bonds to be used to finance new facilities or refinance existing facilities.
The legislation, passed as an emergency by council, does not obligate the city in any way, officials stressed.
“We’re only asking you to take this action because Internal Revenue Service code requires us to do so,” Attorney Sean Garin of Dinsmore & Shohl’s Pittsburgh office, said. “The most important thing is the city is not and would never be obligated on the actual indebtedness.”
— Councilman Willie Paul sunshined resolutions for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mammography and fire prevention.
— Councilman Eric Timmons introduced legislation authorizing city officials to seek a Water Pollution Control Loan Fund for planning, design and construction of the Spahn’s Branch sewer replacement project.