Downtown downfall: Time line set for razing Youngstown Realty Tower

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Enough of the heavily damaged Realty Tower is expected to be demolished by Aug. 2 to allow the nearby International Towers and Stambaugh Building in downtown Youngstown to reopen by that day, a city official said.

Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works, said he was given the Aug. 2 date on Tuesday by Brian Angelili, whose company owns the building.

Shasho said Tuesday that Angelili informed him that a demolition permit application would be submitted later that day to the Mahoning County Building Department. It wasn’t.

Shasho added that Angelili said demolition work could start as soon as Monday. But he also said preparation work is needed first.

“They have work to do otherwise,” Shasho said. “They have to do structural steel work first. There’s prep work that needs to be done.”

A Monday demolition start date seems highly unlikely.

Jeff Uroseva, the county’s chief building official, said he was told by Kurt Seidler, a structural engineer working for YO Properties 47 LLC, Realty’s parent company, that a demolition permit would be sought Friday.

Large demolition equipment already is in place downtown near Realty Tower, which received extensive damage in a May 28 gas explosion.

“They don’t have the demo permit from the county,” Shasho said. “They have submittals to the county. It would be a permit to demo with structural stabilization plans.”

Shasho said: “The goal is to get it to a point where we can get everything opened up by Aug. 2. It’s going to be a dynamic process. I don’t know if it will be fully demolished by Aug. 2.”

He added: “We want downtown opened back up. We need downtown opened back up.”

A demolition bond must be provided before the work can commence, Shasho said.

Under the city charter, YO Properties would need to provide a demolition bond of about $323,000.

The Stambaugh Building — which houses the DoubleTree by Hilton, the city’s only hotel — has been closed by orders of fire Chief Barry Finley since the May 28 explosion.

Finley ordered the evacuation of International Towers, which houses about 170 tenants, by June 14 after a structural engineering report four days prior stated all buildings within a 210-foot radius of Realty be closed as they’re in a “collapse zone.”

Kelsey Klim, a YO Properties spokeswoman, said: “The time line is fluid. Management is working on achieving that time line; however, no demolition will begin until all reasonable measures have been taken for residents to retrieve their belongings, an intricate process that is being worked through now.”

Uroseva said he was told by Seidler that an application would arrive Friday. His department would review it the following Monday.

Uroseva said: “This is not a quick demo set up. It might be a lot of preliminary demolition work to do then the demo work. There’s a lot of things they can do to get ready to start to disassemble the building. The plan is to get it down as quickly as possible, but we want to proceed at a safe pace.”

Uroseva said he hadn’t heard of the Aug. 2 date that Shasho said Angelili told him.

“I don’t know how long it will take,” Uroseva said. “I’ve heard once they start doing it they can do two stories a day, but that’s not in writing. They take it from the top down” with an overhead crane.

“The first few days of demolition are the most critical,” Uroseva said. “Every floor they get off is less of a load.”

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown on June 24 gave YO Properties 47 LLC until this Friday to take the steps to demolish the building or the city would take legal action.

The building on East Federal Street sustained extensive damage in the May 28 explosion, destroying much of the first floor, which was a Chase Bank branch. One worker was killed while several other workers and building tenants were injured.

The tenants in the 23 apartments at Realty immediately were evacuated and haven’t returned.

A June 14 preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation, stated a four-person scrap-removal crew, engaged by GreenHeart Companies of Boardman — which is also owned by Angelili — was working in a basement area underneath the building’s sidewalk removing old utility lines when a crew member sawed three times into a pipe mistakenly believing it to not have natural gas in it. That caused the explosion, the NTSB reported.

Several downtown stakeholders have urged YO Properties to stabilize and save the 101-year-old historic building.

YO Properties and LY Property Management LLC, which manages the building, said in a statement last week that at least five structural engineering companies “have independently concluded that while the building could potentially be stabilized, its longevity could not be guaranteed or insured,” and that Realty would be demolished.

The statement read: “Any other credible structural engineering company would likely render the same findings the last five companies did: stabilization does not equate long-term safety and viability. Beyond stabilization efforts, not a single firm will fully insure the project. In fact, the only firm willing to fully cover their liability is the demolition engineer.

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