EAST LIVERPOOL - Action by the city's Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) Thursday could pave the way for a well-known trade school to locate in the downtown area.
Plans call for developing the former Woolworth's 5&10 and Ogilvie's Department Store into a New Castle School of Trade facility, according to information provided to the CIC during the meeting.
The CIC's board of trustees voted to accept transfer of the buildings at 127 E. Fifth St. and 129 E. Fifth St. from the city, with City Council having approved transfer of the buildings to the CIC during its meeting on Monday.
While the city does not actually own the buildings, both the city and CIC must be included in the "chain of title" as part of the development plan which includes seeking historic tax credits.
The actual owner, C.A.O.H. Commercial Ventures LLC, plans to sell the buildings to Lionmark Liverpool Limited LLC, whose principals were identified during Thursday's meeting as Scott Shepherd, Tom Wycoff, Don Williams and Brandon Dahl.
Lionmark will pay $86,000 for the buildings, and while a multi-party closing of the properties had initially been planned for today to convey the property between the parties, that signing has reportedly been delayed.
The NCST project also hinges on the city establishing a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district which provides for tax revenue generated by new development to be used to further that development. The school board also must agree to the TIF, which has not yet been done.
The CIC's executive committee met prior to the board of trustees and made the recommendation to accept the property transfers, with the stipulation no city or CIC money is spent, however, committee member Don Heldman had some reservations, saying, "There is a lot of property being bought up by people we don't know."
Saying his own business on Sixth Street, the Army-Navy store, is up for sale, Heldman complained, "I'll be lucky to get $3,000 or $4,000 out of my property. I gave 30 years to this city. Some businesses have been here years and years and will be up the creek."
The city has hired a Utah firm to help develop and implement an economic development plan, and some business people have been concerned about some of the aspects they have heard about that plan, which has not yet been made public.
Board member Al Fricano said, however, "Today is a different day. We have the opportunity to do different things in a different way. The past is in the past. For some of us, this is the last chance to move the city into the future."
Councilman Sherrie Curtis, also a CIC board member, agreed, saying she initially wasn't sure she supported the plan but is now "completely on board."
Curtis said, "I believe this is our best chance in a long, long time to advance our city."
President Sam Scafide pointed to a recent loan made to businessman Brian Kerr and the transfer of the former Sherwin-Williams building to Aronson, Fineman & Davis, both of which resulted in renovations to downtown properties.
"That's two things the CIC was involved in that look great. A part of the town is starting to progress," Scafide said.
As a member of the CIC board and as one of the parties involved in the property purchase, Shepherd abstained from the voting.