By The Jambar Editorial Board
Published: Thursday, June 16, 2005
Article Tools: Page 1 of 1
It may take a while longer for the Wick Pollock Inn to reopen, but Youngstown State University officials made the right decision to pull out of contract talks with Paran Management, the inn's potential developer.
From the start, the new plan to reopen the inn, which is located on the corner of Spring Street and Wick Avenue, didn't seem much better than the old plan that resulted in failure.
YSU first attempted to break into the hotel business in 1986. That year, the university leased the property for a period of 25 years to a partnership called the Pollock Inn Restoration Association. The partnership then took out a loan with First National Bank and converted the 14-room mansion into a 76-room inn.
Business wasn't exactly booming. In 1998, FNB foreclosed on the partnership, the inn shut its doors and the property has gone unused ever since. In September 2004, after a lengthy legal battle, FNB turned the remainder of the 25-year lease over to YSU in exchange for $500,000.
YSU, eager to reopen and renovate the fast deteriorating inn, solicited 22 companies for bids, but only Paran responded. The proposal Paran initially submitted to YSU bordered on insulting.
Paran asked for a 50-year lease, with YSU paying $250,000 up front to the company. After the inn was operational, Paran would pay the $250,000 back to YSU as well as a symbolic $1 per year rent for the property. Essentially, Paran was asking the university to give the property away for nothing.
University officials apparently were not able to negotiate a better deal, so they walked away - a smart decision.
Still, with every passing day, the inn falls deeper into disrepair. The building is a historic treasure and should not be subjected to such neglect. If university officials can't find a developer to overhaul the crumbling edifice, they should take the initiative and begin to renovate the building themselves.
In fact, YSU may ultimately be the best entity to run the Wick Pollock Inn. A former partner in the failed 1986 venture, Robert J. O'Malley, told the Jambar in October 2004 that for it to be a viable project, YSU needs to operate the inn itself.
"You don't need a major firm to come in and run it," O'Malley said. "You need to run it yourselves."
If the inn is capable of becoming profitable, why not reap the financial benefits? If the inn isn't capable of making money, no developer is going to want to come in and operate the place anyway.
It is questionable whether Youngstown's economy can even support a full service hotel again. However, if YSU uses the building as a learning tool for students in the hospitality management program, as has been mentioned in the past, with students staffing the inn, the venture could prove both financially and educationally profitable.
But time is money and the university needs to act fast before the historic Wick Pollock Inn deteriorates further.