YOUNGSTOWN City files suit against Esq. Communications

The company wants to buy the Wick Building.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city filed a lawsuit against a Columbus-based communications company seeking $29,303 for two years' worth of unpaid rent at the city-owned Wick Building plus interest and court costs.
Percy Squire, a Columbus attorney and Youngstown native, said his company, Esq. Communications Inc., stopped paying the rent because the city is refusing his offer of $75,000 to buy the Wick Building, at Federal Plaza West and Phelps Street adjacent to the Phar-Mor Centre.
"When we entered into this deal with the city in '95, we went into it with the understanding that we were going to be able to buy the building," said Squire, whose company rents space on the building's 12th floor. "I didn't go in there with the idea of being a perpetual tenant. We're ready, willing and able to buy the building, and I'm going to file a counterclaim."
The lawsuit, filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court by Atty. Fredric A. Kannensohn of Youngstown on behalf of the city, claims Esq. Communications, which operates radio stations, has not paid $1,200 in monthly rent for two years.
"He entered into a lease agreement for the space," said Mayor George M. McKelvey. "His lease doesn't say anything about buying the building. He has a legal obligation to pay his rent. Whether he made someone an offer, you still entered into an agreement to pay your rent."
Selling the building
The city is trying to sell the 80-year-old, 13-story building donated in 1994 by the Burdman family. The city breaks even on the building, which needs a new elevator that will cost about $250,000, and is about 40 percent occupied.
The city is willing to sell the building well below its appraised value of $1.1 million. The Mahoning County auditor lists the market value of the building at $779,000.
City officials recently asked for proposals to purchase the building and received one last month; $60,000 from Entity Investing of Wadsworth. The company's plans call for a fitness center, a membership-only bar, a coffee shop and deli and a data processing center.
City officials say they received a $50,000 offer on the building when it sought a buyer in 1996. But they have never mentioned Squire's $75,000 offer.
McKelvey said Squire offered to buy the building in 1995, when it was not for sale.
In other complaints filed with the court Monday, the city also seeks $7,080 with interest for unpaid rent at 808 Wick Building from Ted T. Macejko Jr., doing business as Macejko and Macejko; and $7,400 in unpaid rent with interest from Donna Barron and Lina Chiovitti, doing business as Styles With Attitude Inc., 34 Federal Plaza.