Greg DeMatteo Santon Electric project manager stands outside power boxes behind Gallagher Building

Santon Electric on the final stretch of work at Gallagher Building

For about two years, a transformation of history has been happening at the Gallagher Building in downtown Youngstown. It’s one of the oldest left in the city – dating back to 1904.

The corner of North Hazel and Commerce Street has been a flurry of activity as GreenHeart Companies LLC renovated it into 41 apartments. There are also plans for a restaurant and tavern with an outdoor patio.

The difference a year makes

Santon Electric is winding down work on the living units. A year ago, the framing was going up, and electricians were running all the wiring. Now, it’s almost time for the final phase of the job.

Greg DeMatteo Santon Electric project manager stands outside power boxes behind Gallagher Building
Greg DeMatteo, project manager at Santon Electric, stands with the new power boxes outside the Gallagher Building. It has been renovated to fit 41 apartments and will soon be home to a restaurant and tavern with patio.

“We’re pretty much done with all the units. Next will be the restaurant, once they figure out who will be going in there,” said Greg DeMatteo, project manager for Santon Electric.

That space on the main level was once home to Cedar’s Lounge – a social hot spot for live entertainment. It closed a decade ago but reopened as Cedars West End on Steel Street.

Hallway of Gallagher Building apartments
Hallway leading to Gallagher living units

The building’s four floors mirror one another, and all have a main electrical panel that powers the units on each floor.

“Breakers in those panels also feed hallway lighting, outlets and the data room. Then, all the conduits from the panels run down into the basement,” DeMatteo said.

Each apartment also has its own electrical box. This allows for easy access and less disruption for other units should someone have an issue. Appliances are also supplied, including a washer and dryer.

Floor electrical box
Electrical panels on each floor are stacked above each other. They feed power to the living units.

“So far, about 15 people have moved in. It’s been a lot of work in progress to this point,” DeMatteo said.

Honoring historical qualities

Despite the changes inside the Gallagher Building, not everything old is being made new again. Some characteristics are being kept like the original hardwood flooring and sections of wall space that expose old layers of paint or brick.

For the electricians, preserving the tin ceilings has posed quite a challenge.

“Trying to keep those sections intact while getting all the wiring where it needed to go was no easy task,” DeMatteo said.

He’ll be facing the same issue in the old Cedar’s space when work begins on the restaurant and kitchen. The tin ceiling is staying there, as well.

Living unit renovation with tin ceiling
Electricians challenged to work around tin ceilings being kept for character.

“They also want to keep the original brick walls. For us, that means getting creative because what’s there is the finished product,” DeMatteo said.

The new elevator is in a different location than the original one. The old shaft and wiring still runs through the building. The framing of where it used to be on each floor is now the archway leading to the living units.

Ring the alarm for safety

When it comes to old buildings, updating the safety system is a common necessity. The Gallagher now has the most up to date fire alarm and sprinkler system.

“We did the wiring, installed strobe lights, smoke detectors, everything that’s required by code,” DeMatteo said.

The Youngstown Fire Department has been there to test the system and walk every floor to get familiar with the building in case of an emergency. The renovations also meant building a new fire escape.

Sprinkler system and water lines
Water lines for sprinkler system.

Basement blunders

Aside from not being able to walk through the basement of the building at first, Santon’s electricians have been dealing with adversity there.

“We had to completely shut down the power and schedule an outage that affected the federal building to put in a new transformer to support the new load,” DeMatteo said.

The main panel for the old service is in the basement, and he says it was tied in with the federal building. After a four-month wait to have the outage on a weekend, electricians installed the new transformer, and power was restored.

The remnants of the old panel are outlined on two big boards along a brick wall which will be removed. Some basement space is expected to be used as storage for the tenants.

Old electrical panel boards
Remnants of old main electrical panel.

DeMatteo says some of the work required drilling through the brick to run wire.

“It’s about knowing where everything goes and how to get it there. Sometimes it’s not the neatest, but the job dictates what you have to do,” he said.

Highlights of a high-stress job

DeMatteo points out extreme organization and efficiency is needed for a project like this.

“I am constantly pushing and checking because I have to make sure my guys are being productive to be on time. A job like this, you can get lost very quickly if you’re not keeping track,” he said.

DeMatteo consistently kept two or three electricians on the job. The price tag for the entire renovation is more than $4 million.

Most of the time, he says it’s about being as efficient as possible.

“We’re always working around other contractors, so communication is important. If there are issues, we work them out. A big project like this requires a lot of meetings because what happened six months ago can catch up to you, and it gets frustrating when there are a lot of hands in the pot,” DeMatteo said.

Side of Gallagher Building showing windows to apartments
Uplighting on outside of Gallagher Building. LED lighting was used for the whole project.

The final touches are being made on the outside of the building. Uplighting was installed recently, and the brick will get a fresh coat of paint. To save energy and money in the long-term, the whole project is LED lighting.

Santon Electric is a member contractor of NECA-IBEW Electricians, an association of IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown, IBEW Local 573 in Warren and signatory electrical contractors throughout the Mahoning Valley.