Business Journal Daily – 2 New Plans to Reclaim Downtown

 

Many things have to fall in place, especially financing, before plans to convert half of Silver’s Vogue Shop to an art gallery/bistro and reclaim the Kress Building and transform it into a “banquet/multimedia facility [and] fitness/training facility” can occur.

The property committee of the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. Tuesday heard the vision of fine artist James Pernotto for the Schulte United Building, 27 W. Federal St., home of Silver’s Vogue Shop and Pernotto’s studios.

The committee also heard from the Anderson Development Group LLC, which hopes to redevelop the Kress Building. Kandis Anderson is president of the development group.

Pernotto wants to buy the Schulte United Building from Barry Silver and transform half of the 8,000 to 9,000 square feet on the first floor to an art gallery and bistro/café with Internet access. He expects to pay Silver $350,000, he said, and spend another $150,000 on renovating and rehabilitating the first floor, including the installation of secure glass and a new facade. Silver replaced the roof two years ago.

Before Pernotto can proceed, he must secure financing, he admitted, something he is working on through a financial group in New York City he declined to identify. Pernotto, who grew up in the Lansingville section of Youngstown and is a 1968 graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School, spent 10 years in New York. There he was director of the Pacifico Art Gallery. He returned nearly three years ago.

While Pernotto has kept a studio on the second floor since 1980, he sublet it the decade he was in New York.

The entrance to the bistro and gallery would remain through Silver’s front doors but customers of the bistro would take a short flight of steps up to enter.

The first-floor gallery, to occupy 3,000 feet, would be called “Art of the Twenty-first Century” and be free and open to the public.

The front 400 to 600 square feet closest to the street would be called “Window on the Plaza” for works lent from the Butler Institute of American Art, “a project room where they rotate [the exhibits] three or four times a year,” Pernotto said.

Not only has Pernotto discussed his idea with Lou Zona, executive director of the Butler, Pernotto presented a retrospective of his work last fall at the Butler’s gallery in Trumbull County. Zona has expressed interest, Pernotto indicated, but added it obviously was too early to make a commitment.

Silver’s Vogue Shop would contract to 3,000 to 4,000 feet on one side of the first floor which side hasn’t been determined, the owner said. But first, he said after yesterday’s meeting, another prospective buyer must bow out before he gives more serious consideration to Pernotto.

“Jimmy told me just last night [Monday night] he was going [to the CIC],” Silver said. The first prospective buyer has made two offers and Silver has countered both, he said, but he hasn’t heard anything since he made the second counterproposal.

“I had planned on staying here anyway in a smaller area,” Silver said, even before offers to buy his building were made. If he can be more profitable in smaller quarters, he will stay, he said. Should he be the buyer chosen, Pernotto said, “Silvers’s will be there for a period of time. … Silver’s will be renting for a year.”

The basement of Schulte United “has an existing viable tenant of 20 years (a boxing training gym), which I would like to stay,” Pernotto told the CIC property committee. Two boxing rings are in the basement, Silver said, and identified Larry Filer, a boxing trainer, as the tenant.

Once Pernotto learns he’s the buyer — he hopes in the “next couple of months, he said — he plans to “build out the gallery space over three months to have work on the galleries.” The bistro might take as long as another nine months to complete, he suggested, and while he would prefer to have an independent owner inhabit the space, he is not averse to a chain coming in.

“It’s a very cool building,” the artist told the CIC. “[Architect] Ron Faniro assures me the building is in solid shape. The floors underneath the carpet are terrazzo tile” and Pernotto likes the exposed tin ceilings on the first floor.

He will keep his studios on the second floor.

As for the façade, Pernotto said he would approach the city for a façade grant once he takes title to the building.

Pernotto sought nothing from the CIC and all the Anderson Development Group asked was a 90-day period of exclusivity to line up financing and a contractor to reclaim the Kress Building. The CIC is expected to oblige when its board meets next Tuesday.

Anderson Development would convert the first floor of the Kress Building to a “banquet/multimedia facility” that could used for corporate meetings, wedding receptions, among other social or business events. It proposes to have nights where independently produced films would be shown “on a regular basis,” and be the site of amateur boxing matches and martial arts bouts.

The stage on the first floor could also be the site of performing arts groups, music and theater.

Anderson Development proposed converting the second floor into a “fitness/training facility,” possibly the primary training site for Kelly Pavlik, a native of Youngstown who recently won the world middleweight boxing championship.

Anderson said it has a relationship with Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, founder and owner of the Southside Boxing Club. Loew’s concern is fighting juvenile diabetes and child obesity, Steve Jones, an insurance agent, said, and the reclaimed Kress Building could serve as a base for both causes because Anderson also sees it as a center for nutritional counseling for people of all ages.

The third and fourth floors could be residential space for either students at Youngstown State University or apartments for young professionals, Anderson said.

Jones offered a “ballpark figure” of $50 a square foot to reclaim the Kress Building, which has 44,000 to 45,000 square feet of space. All that can be salvaged of the building is the steel beams and the façade. The group is “still trying to estimate the cost of materials and labor. That’s the challenge,” he told the property committee.

“$2.2 million to complete the work,” was his answer to how much the project could cost.”

A group of retired military officers, based in Washington, D.C., which calls itself the Nation’s Business Group, is a potential source of a grant Anderson would use to combat juvenile diabetes and childhood obesity, Terry Williams, its operations manager said.

As for construction financing, Jones said, “We have a relationship with KeyBank,” the group hopes to develop further. “We have an equity partner,” he added, that he hopes will also supply funding.

Anderson Development officers have toured the building and are fully aware of its condition, they assured Mark Brown, chairman of the property committee and general manager of The Vindicator.

Copyright 2007 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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