WARREN, Ohio --As the chapter closes on one landmark business, a second chapter opens for another venture in this city's central business district.
Eastern Gateway Community College and its partner, Higher Education Partners Inc., announced today the purchase tof he building that houses Mickey's Army-Navy, a longtime Warren establishment of 66 years that's now going out of business.
"It's bittersweet," sys Martin Cohen, owner of Mickey's. "We're an institution, but thank God it's being replaced with another institution."
Cohen says the business climate in downtown has changed, and has attracted more service-oriented, entertainment, government, nonprofit and professional establishments rather than retail.
"Things have changed," Cohen says. "The environment has changed. There are a lot of government buildings and very little retail left."
Mickey's was established in 1948 first on Pine Avenue, and moved in 1970 to its current location at 239 Main Avenue SW.
Cohen sys he's ready to retire from the retail business. His store specializes in selling outdoor wear, camping, and sports equipment and apparel.
"We'll be having our going-out-of-business sale starting next week," he says.
Eastern Gateway has allowed Cohen 90 days to vacate the building, but officials say the retailer could have more time if he needs it. "What is becomes something else overtime," he reflects.
Eastern Gateway plans to relocate its Warren Center from the Atrium Building to the Mickey's site this summer and make the necessary renovations to accommodate students for the fall semester, says the community college's president, Laura Meeks, who joined Cohen and Mayor Doug Franklin outside City Hall to make the announcement.
"We'll see classrooms, we'll put in an elevator so we can access science labs in the basement, improve the parking. In the next few months we're going to fiercely get ready for fall semester," Meeks says.
About 100 attend EGCC's Warren Center now, but that number should double by this time next year, she estimates.
The cost of the renovation project ranges from $5 million to $7 million, Meeks says. The first phase consists of renovating 10,000 square feet of space on the ground floor that will be converted into classrooms, computer labs, tutoring services, office space, a satellite bookstore and a student services office.
The second phase includes renovating another 10,000 square-feet of space at the lower level that will house a science lab, more classrooms and office space.
Classrooms would be equipped with the latest technology that consists of an interactive distance learning lab, new furniture, and Wi-Fi accessibility.
Meeks says the Atrium Building suited EGCC's initial needs perfectly, but it is running out of space because of increased enrollment. The Atrium Building held just two classrooms and a couple of offices. The college and HEP opted to purchase a building instead of leasing.
"This was a situation with the right place, the right time and the right people," she says.
Mayor Franklin says the expansion of Eastern Gateway will help downtown businesses, and vows to improve conditions at the nearby parking deck to accommodate student needs.
"A community college committed to education stimulates support businesses in the square," Franklin says. The new location will also include 25 new employees, he adds.
Other businesses at the plaza where Mickey's is located -- a Subway sandwich shop, Dub City and PsyCare -- will remain, Meeks says.
As for Cohen, he says the business may continue its Internet presence, but he's busy with his interest in Sunrise Entertainment, which is responsible for booking acts at the downtown amphitheater.
"I never thought this day would come," Cohen says. "I'm at an age now where I don't have to work as much as I used to. It's time for me to do something else."
Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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