Assembly contracts with real estate agent to sell hospital property

The borough-owned hospital property on Bennett Street has been vacant since March 2021 and on the market for about a year. Though the borough has received one development proposal for the land, it is contracting with a realtor to attract more buyers and expand its options.

At its June 13 meeting, the borough assembly approved a contract with Petersburg-based real estate agent Anchor Properties to try selling the 30,000-square-foot building and 1.94 acres of land. Assembly Member Jim DeBord was the only opposing vote.

The appraised value of the building and land is $830,000, but the borough is asking $470,000 —the value of the land only. The assembly approved the price drop late last year after receiving no offers for about seven months.

Hazardous materials such as asbestos in some of the building’s components will make demolishing or developing it a costly endeavor for any future owner.

Anchor Properties will make a 7% commission on the sale. The agent demonstrated superior knowledge of the local economy, beating out — a government surplus website — for a contract with the borough. A three-person committee of borough officials evaluated both proposals using a point system that ranked the companies’ fees, methods and abilities.

“It definitely sounds like they have a pretty aggressive plan to move forward, to get this out there and get it advertised,” Borough Manager Jeff Good said of Anchor Properties.

The agent is expected to “(assist) the borough in negotiating the terms and conditions for the sale of the property, (maximize) revenue from the sale and (provide) an unbiased … source of information for the borough to be able to make the best decision regarding the sale of the property.”

Mayor Patty Gilbert called the contract the borough’s “last resort” to offload the property, which has been costing nearly $100,000 in heating, insurance and maintenance each year it is in the borough’s ownership.

At the June 13 meeting, Assembly Member DeBord was concerned that if the borough sells the property, the new owner will strip and abandon it, rather than using it for some form of economically advantageous development.

“I don’t support this because of two issues,” he said of potentially selling the property. “I think somebody is going to get in over their head, or there’s a high likelihood with the low price. Second, the bigger issue to me is the Public (Safety) Building … this is property that we already have in hand and it’s a good spot for that.” In previous meetings, DeBord has mentioned the possibility of relocating the Public Safety Building to the former hospital site.

Assembly Member David Powell shared DeBord’s concerns. “This property is costing us money and I do not like the money that it’s costing us,” Powell said. “But without knowing what we’re doing with our (Public Safety Building) up here, I’m really leery of even selling this property until we decide what we’re going to do there.”

Assembly Member Bob Dalrymple pointed out that approving a contract with a realtor is not the same as approving a sale. “We’re going to be able to evaluate the offers,” he said. “It’s just some additional information. Maybe there’s somebody out there we could reach. At least we would know” what a buyer might be willing to offer.

In January, potential investors Jim Freeman, Erik Freeman and Kevin Jones shared their plan to turn the former hospital property into an independent senior living center that would attract out-of-state residents. Their vision for the area also included family townhomes and greenhouses.

The group requested a 180-day due diligence period to assess the feasibility of their project and Good has not been in contact with them since then.

“We haven’t had conversations in a while,” said Good. “Once we got the realtor, we kind of put everything on hold to see if there’s more interest out there than just the one offer.” Working with Jones and the Freemans is not off the table, Good explained, but the borough is “trying to expand and provide the most outreach we can to prospective businesses so that we can get more than one offer, hopefully.”

He plans to let Anchor Properties know about the group’s proposal, then conduct any future business with them through the realtor.


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