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Thinking Big In Steubenville

Steubenville Municipal Court Judge John Mascio Jr. has the right idea regarding other city officials’ vision of turning the old municipal building into a public market: Think big.

Conversion of the old building could serve as a magnet to attract business to downtown Steubenville, similar to what happened in Wheeling with the Centre Market project.

City officials already have taken steps to make the Steubenville project happen. The structure itself seems to be solid, though some repairs and upgrades are needed.

Repairs to the building’s roof are in progress. And last week, Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi told city council members a contractor had identified other needed repairs. They include work on some doors, as well as some painting. The total cost is estimated at $26,000.

During last week’s meeting, City Manager Jim Mavromatis asked that bids be sought for work on the building. “As the year ends, we may find we have some money” to undertake at least part of the work, he remarked.

As so often seems to be the case with great ideas, there is a catch to this one. Though most city operations have been moved to a new facility, Mascio’s court remains in the old municipal building. He told council that bringing the facility up to Ohio Supreme Court standards “would cost around $100,000 to do it right …”

Should council convert part of the building to a public market, “we’re going to have to somehow secure this half of the building to protect employees,” Mascio noted.

“I like the idea of a market,” Mascio continued, “but realistically, I don’t think it’s a good idea unless you take over the whole building.”

Bingo, as we say when someone gets directly to the crux of a matter.

Ideally, as Mascio said, municipal court facilities would be moved to another structure, freeing the entirety of the old city building for the public market concept.

It is difficult to see how cash-strapped Steubenville could afford that, but Mascio’s suggestion is worth pursuing. Perhaps historic preservation grants could be obtained for part of the project.

Mascio is not just thinking big. He is looking at the situation realistically, from a long-term point of view. Steubenville officials should look into his idea.

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