The owners of the Realty Tower building that recently exploded in downtown Youngstown has released a statement responding to criticism from city officials and organizations on the decision to demolish the building.

City leaders like Councilmen Julius Oliver and Mike Ray, as well as organizations like the Mahoning Valley Historical Society (MVHS) have expressed desire for the building to be stabilized rather than demolished.

However, building owners Yo Properties 47 LLC and Live Youngstown (LY) Property Management LLC responded slamming those who criticized the decision to demolish the building 

"It has been alleged by our community members that the decision to demolish Realty Tower has been motivated by ulterior intentions, made with haste and not considerate of the historic value of downtown. Unfounded speculations of this sort will no longer be tolerated by our company," the statement reads.

The owners say they were among the first to invest in downtown Youngstown's last two decades of revitalization, restoring four more properties aside from Realty Tower and remain committed to even more.

"We have dedicated our careers to investing in and restoring downtown buildings that other organizations were keen to leave vacant. Our projects have stimulated the downtown economy exponentially, creating jobs, attracting people to Youngstown, and changing the social and cultural landscape of our beloved downtown," the statement continued.

The owners say their decisions are motivated by the people including the residents, employees, neighbors and surrounding community's safety.

The statement calls out city council members and "special interest groups" namedropping folks like Scott Schulick of Youngstown CityScape and local architect Paul Hagman accusing them of making "false and uninformed" claims about the owners.

The owners also address a letter posted to Facebook from SSRG, the engineering firm hired by Youngstown First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver to possibly restore the building.

"Mr. Schulick has never reached out to our organization or attorney at any time during this process. Instead, he prefers to vilify us and portray himself as a stakeholder and authority in every other possible forum. A phone call to our representation would have been welcomed if his true interest was to gain knowledge on measures to 'Save Realty Tower,'" the statement reads.

The owners go on to say the letter was a request for a second site visit, which was denied because of the ongoing investigation involving the death of Akil Drake, a banker who worked in the Chase Bank on the first floor of the building.

"We have fully cooperated with this investigation and it has required us to grant very limited access to preserve all evidence. While we appreciate and clearly share their passion for preservation, their continual contradictory/uninformed statements have detracted from the actual work that is being done to restore order back to displaced residents, business owners, and commerce," the statement reads.

The owners then say at least five structural engineering companies have independently found that while the building could possibly be stabilized, its longevity is not guaranteed.

One report from Bill G. Halkiadakis of United Engineers & Consultants indicated saving the building is "feasibly impractical" due to existing damage and safety concerns. 

"As Mr. Halkiadakis observed, the 1923 building was not engineered to sustain an explosion and the full scope of subsequent risks will never be fully known," the statement reads.

Halkiadakis is quoted as saying any structural engineer must consider a number of elements to provide a comprehensive report and that major and minor damages must all be considered to fully declare the building safe.

The owners say this would not only shutter the entire downtown for an extensive amount of time, it would also likely never be completed due to the number of unknowns.

The statement features the following quote from Halkiadakis:

"Right now, for example, trying to repair (the inside of the building), debris would need to be removed which may result in additional partial collapse. So my thought process, which I believe is the opinion of other engineers, is that due to the fact that there are so many risks, and so many 'unknown unknowns', meaning we do not know a lot of things about the condition of the other structural elements of the building. In order for Youngstown to be able to allow not only the residents of this building but the other properties to come back to some type of normalcy, the fastest way for Youngstown to go back to their normal life is to proceed with the controlled demolition of the building which will allow those unknowns to be eliminated."

The statement concludes with the owners saying they are not interested in engaging with "political rhetoric, suppositions or impulsive ideas" and will no longer allow "feckless commentary, reckless suggestions and insulting statements" to be circulated unconfronted.

"Our core mission is providing the solace of solution to the actual stakeholders of this situation; the people directly impacted by this tragic event, our residents,
our neighbors, our employees and tenants," the statement reads.

Below is the owners' full response: