Give Austin Village Plaza owner Joseph Shafran some credit — he has been responsive this week to our complaints. He called back on Wednesday to say that he has a new demolition plan in place and that crews will be working from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 every weekday until the job is completed. He estimated that the job should be done by “mid-October.”
We expressed skepticism on that date estimate given the small crews and the toy-like equipment they were using. We’ve seen quite a few residential demolitions and every one of them had more robust resources at work compared to what was at work at AVP on Wednesday. He promised to look into it and yesterday they had a real, grown-up front loader at work. Wednesday it was two bobcats and an F-150. On Thursday Councilman Eddie Colbert saw a full sized semi hauling away debris on one of his twice daily drive by inspections. (see before and after photos here.)
We also asked about plans for weed cutting as many of them exceed six feet in height and Shafran promised to good something soon. We promise to stay on top of the project until it is satisfactorily completed.
There is some very exciting Garden District news. You may recall the Trumbull 100 matching grant offer; well, it has maxed out, thanks to an anonymous $10,000 donation. So, we now have an additional $25,000 available for a home renovation, and TNP is looking for for a good candidate. And as soon as we sell the house on Vine Avenue we will be able to start a third renovation.
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There is good news there as well. We got a very nice turn out for last weekend’s open house, and very good media coverage including a spot on WKBN. Even better, a local veterans support group has offered down payment assistance to any disabled vet who desires to buy the house. You can see details on the house and how to get a showing or more information by clicking this link.
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Regarding yesterday’s post — I should have named the people in the citizen’s group who met with GE. They each devoted at least 4-5 hours of their private time (with more to come) to the task of making Warren a better place to live for everyone, and deserve some acknowledgment. They are:
- Brian Angelo, Sales/Applications Engineer, Spang Power Electronics; member of Resident Advisory Committee (RAC); member, Board of Directors, Sunshine of Warren/Trumbull Area, Inc. (Local CHDO).
- Melissa Holmes, consultant to Warren Redevelopment and Planning and lead volunteer to revitalize the historic Robins Theater. Master’s Degree in Urban Policy Analysis and Management from The New School. RAC member.
- Matt Martin, Executive Director, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, a 501(c)3 CDC and Director of the Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corporation.
- Cindee Mines, retired nurse, Board of Directors, Trumbull County Historical Society.
- Erica Royster, President Southwest Warren Neighborhood Association, RAC member, Precinct Committeewoman, small business owner
- Roy Yancey, retired management General Motors, retired U.S. Army, Chairman, Resident Advisory Committee (advisors to Warren City Council).
Joseph Shafran, the owner of Austin Village Plaza called us this morning. He said he was sorry the demolition has dragged on so long and he called their handling of it “unprofessional.” He promised that they are rededicating themselves to the task and that it would be done very quickly. We asked for a specific target date for completion, and he promised to call back by the end of the day today with a date. He did not call back. We will stay on him, and you should,too. See yesterday’s post for full contact information.
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Two representatives from General Electric’s corporate headquarters in Connecticut traveled to Warren last week to meet with an ad hoc group of local residents to discuss the condition in which GE would leave their former Ohio Lamp plant sites on West Market Street and Dana. One is a lawyer and the other a PhD in environment science. They were accompanied by a third person who works for a third-party firm in Pittsburgh, who is charged with overseeing the work.
It was what the diplomats might call a “frank and open discussion of the issues.” The Warren group asked for GE’s support in beautifying the West Market lot that we have characterized as looking like a prison yard; we also discussed the idea of saving the Dana building and leaving a more attractive site if that is not possible. While non-committal, the GE representatives appeared to be open to our ideas and to playing a constructive role in meeting our goals. They did say that saving the Dana Street building was unlikely due to environmental issues and the cost associated with remediation.
They asked for some time to go back to HQ and discuss the options and to investigate some specific ideas we presented. We polled everyone in our six-person group after the meeting and all agreed that the meeting was a good one, and that we are inclined to trust GE to continue to work with us in a positive manner. We will post further developments as they occure.
This is Joseph Shafran, the C.E.O. of Paran Management Company, which owns Austin Village Plaza. He is also the father-in-law of Ohio State Treasurer, Josh Mandel.
In addition to AVP, Paran owns roughly 25 other commercial properties including the Ridge Plaza on Youngstown Road in Warren. Mr. Paran has been very slowly tearing down AVP for over a year and the job is far from done, as the photo below and others in a recent post show. It gets our vote for ugliest commercial property in Warren. That is a title that’s both hard to win and a badge of shame.
We made the mistake of assuming in that earlier post that the AVP owners were poorly financed and unable to get the job done in a timely fashion. After all, they had petitioned the Warren Planning Commission for relief from demolishing the AVP parking lot (which was granted), saying it was an unfair economic burden. And they hired a demolition crew that a West Market Street businessman located near AVP has called “the Beverly Hillbillies with a backhoe and a pickup,” who stripped the buildings of its metal and then skipped the job — if not Ohio altogether.
But we were incorrect. What we first saw as a lack of resources was actually a lack of willingness to do the job right. Mr. Shafran maintains nice looking offices in Shaker Heights in a neighborhood that — we can be pretty certain — would not tollerate the appalling mess Mr. Shafran has inflicted on the citizens of Warren. And while Mr. Shafran seems to have done well in his business life, that success pales compared to his luck in the DNA lottery, having been born into the Ratner family, founders of Forest City Enterprises. Mr. Shafran boot-strapped himself from there to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business — one of the country’s most prestigious.
So here is a man who is born to wealth and privilege, surrounded by political power, who uses those gifts to save himself a few bucks at the expense of an entire community by creating an enormous eyesore on a major road right at the entryway to our city. I guess that’s why he’s smiling.
We may be a little extra fired-up having just watched seven nights of “The Roosevelts” last week. There is certainly no doubt about what Teddy, Franklin, and especially Eleanor, would think of Mr. Shafran. They’d think shame on you; but they’d do something about it, too. So here is his contact information. Let him know what you think.
Joseph Shafran, CEO
Paran Management Company
2720 Van Aken Blvd. #200
Cleveland, Ohio 44120
Come on down to 453 Vine Avenue (between Washington and Scott) between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., for a first hand look at the house recently renovated and now available for sale for only $29,000. The house has a great private back yard, new kitchen and bathrooms, and much more. You can see a lot more detail and more photos here in a previous post. Please share this post with everyone you can in Warren. We can’t afford to buy ads or even to pay a real estate commission. We are dependent on social media for spreading the word — and that means you! Help us bring Warren back.