NEWS9 Special Assignment: Committed to Downtown

Business owners like Mike Smith, left, and Steubenville City Manager Jim Mavromatis both say cost is a big factor in downtown Steubenville's revitalization.

In a special assignment earlier this month, we talked about revitalizing downtown Steubenville, specifically, what to do with the old and dilapidated structures dotting city streets.

That story elicited a lot of reaction.

One person who reached out immediately is a downtown business owner who says deciding whether to tear down or build up is his life right now.

Mike Smith, better known as “Smitty,” owns more than 100,000 square feet downtown –- 55,000 on 4th Street.

And, he's got big plans for the old Catholic Community Center.

"It was like an orphan,” he said. “Nobody wanted it, nobody had any vision for it and it ended up in my hands.”

The building was constructed in the late 1800s and has decades of memories. We even found a WTOV9 sticker adorning one of the basketball hoops in the gym from when games and tournaments were held there.

If there is any chance of restoration, it's going to take a lot of time and money. And that's the cause of Smitty's internal struggle.

"I'm crunching numbers, staying up late at night, not being able to fall asleep,” he said. “You only get so many years on this earth. I don't know if my kid wants to finish this project. I'm doing a hundred percent or none.”

Costs add up quickly. Repairing the roof, a new sprinkler system and heating alone would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"I'd love to make it happen,” Smitty said. “But I'm not going to run myself into the ground, and I'm not going to spend money I'm not going to get back. I'm not getting any younger.”

Smitty still has high hopes for the building and for downtown. But, he says, it might take an even stronger partnership between the city and business owners.

“There’s not a lot of doers in the world right now, and I just think the doers in Steubenville need some help,” Smitty said. “That's what it's going to come down to.”

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