Plans are in the works for a downtown Youngstown grocery store

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

YOUNGSTOWN -- The owner of the 16 Wick Building said there will be a full-scale grocery store downtown on that structure's ground floor by the fall of 2014.

"I am as committed and focused on this as anything," said Dominic Marchionda, managing partner of the NYO Property Group, which owns several downtown buildings including 16 Wick. A grocery store is "a big piece of the puzzle to the downtown revitalization. It will increase population downtown. We will move forward on this. I'm going to make it work."

Marchionda is working with Gary Crawford, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Laurel Grocery Co., a grocery product supplier in London, Ky., and Henry Nemenz, who owns about 20 grocery stores in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

Though Marchionda and Crawford say the project looks strong, Nemenz is considerably more skeptical.

"We're not ready to sign a lease; I haven't heard the terms," Nemenz said. "I don't think we're close on this. We are far from finalizing it. In the last two months, there's not been much conversation, and the interest on my part is kind of dwindling. I'm not as optimistic as they are. It's been too darn hard for me to get refinancing on the buildings I own, and I've been trying for two years. If I don't get refinancing, I'm totally out."

If that happens, Marchionda said he and Crawford would pursue other interested parties in the downtown grocery store.

The supermarket would need financial assistance from the city as well as federal funding, particularly through the New Markets Tax Credit Program that provides tax incentives in low-income areas for a variety of businesses including grocery stores, Marchionda and Crawford said.

The proposal "is a great opportunity," Crawford said. "We have some issues we'd have to overcome, but we believe it's viable. There's still some work to do. It wouldn't resemble Henry's other stores. It would be a fresh market with a heavy emphasis on prepared foods. We'd make a deal with an established downtown restaurant for the prepared food."

The store would be a cornerstone of downtown Youngstown revitalization, Crawford said. But the store wouldn't open for about a year, he said.

"Downtown Youngstown is just about ready to support it, but we need some other projects [related to additional downtown housing] to occur before we can open," Crawford said.

The project would cost about $2.5 million, he said.

But Nemenz said he isn't prepared to move ahead without refinancing.

"We want to do this with Henry, but if he doesn't want to do it, we'll pursue others for the store," Marchionda said. "We'll beat the pavement and find someone else. If it's not him, we'll find someone else. I guarantee it will happen."

Marchionda's company owns numerous buildings downtown including the 16 Wick Building at Wick Avenue and Commerce Street. It's probably best known for having scaffolding surrounding it for about 31/2 years.

Just weeks after the scaffolding was moved, PNC Bank, the building's main tenant, announced in October 2011 that it would move its downtown regional headquarters from there to City Centre One at 100 E. Federal St. in March 2012.

The space has been largely empty since, with the failed mayoral campaign of DeMaine Kitchen occupying a portion of the ground floor during the months before the Nov. 5 general election.


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