The Journal News has been working overtime to find something to report on, so as is sometimes the case, they are way ahead of the actual story on city owned buildings.
The City has to make an evaluation when the private market abandons a property. Look at the old Library on First Avenue. Look at the old Montgomery Wards building on Main Street. Look at the old Lincoln School on Central. When the private real estate market abandons a property and no one will even pay one dollar to purchase it at the Forfeited Land Sale held by the state each year, what, as a city, should we do?
In the case of the Lincoln School, we had to board it up to keep people out of it and someone still set fire to the vacant structure. We spend thousands of dollars mowing the property each year. It is once again forfeiting to the State of Ohio for unpaid taxes. The State of Ohio holds title but does not maintain the building or any forfeited property in their name.
I can quit spending money mowing and boarding the building and then the entire neighborhood will look terrible when you drive by and we’ll have an abandoned, unmowed eyesore along our newly paved Central Avenue.
The City is the last in line when the private real estate market fails. In the case of the school, we can continue to leave title with the State of Ohio and continue to mow and board and maintain the property indefinitely. We will not get our mowing and boarding money returned to the taxpayers because if it is sold out of forfeited land status, all liens are removed from the property upon transfer of title. No return of your tax dollars.
I can demolish the school at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars of your local tax dollars. Because title is with the State of Ohio, that lien would also be removed when sold out of forfeiture. No return of your tax dollars.
I can take title and either try to market it with other incentives or demolish it and use incentives to redevelop the land. No return of your tax dollars.
There was a comment on MiddletownUSA asking “Would any of you real estate investors do [these types of things] in running your business?” I would sincerely hope the answer is “of course not.” We are not real estate investors. We are what is left when no real estate investors want the property but something has to be done anyway.
There is no right answer. I can make good arguments for letting it go to woods and not spending mowing funds, for continuing status quo, for demolition while in the State’s title and for taking title and trying to redevelop the property. Different intelligent people would probably see this in different ways and there are pros and cons to each approach.
At the end of the day, the property is going to cost local taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars or more no matter which choice the city makes. The question becomes which “stupid” decision is the city going to make? The answer is that because there is no one left to hold accountable for the property, the city is going to look stupid no matter what choice they make.
Now let’s look at the seven properties in the Journal article. What Councilman Picard asked us to do was to assemble the list, see which were marketable, and then develop a submission package including a business plan and bidsheet on each building that staff could evaluate and then send on to City Council for consideration. We are working on that package now. At some point in the nearer future, we will put the properties that could be redeveloped up on our web page with the package available to download and complete.
The Montgomery Wards building on Main and the Studio Theater have been condemned. The Montgomery Wards building no longer has a roof and is a brick shell. The front part of the Studio is solid but in terrible condition. The theater portion should be demolished and is unsafe. 1200 First Avenue has been abandoned for years and is in terrible shape. We took title with the intention to demolish the property and return it to green space.
403 Curtis is in use and will likely not be for sale. The building on 9th Avenue has active leases and staff has not yet evaluated the leases, space, and condition of the building for sale.
The building on Clinton is in poor condition but the City would accept offers on it. The former Senior Center is not yet titled to the City so we are not able to show the building or do much with the property until title transfers to the City. If you have interest in redevelopment of the old Senior Center, let us know and we can contact you later as we take control of the building.
I’ll blog about this again as we get organized and have real information to share with the public.
Have a great week!