County chooses buyer for property , BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
It was quite a problem to have for the Lancaster County commissioners.
The two offers, just $15,000 apart, represented different visions for the county property on West King Street.
One would turn the property into a grocery store that would serve a neighborhood lacking one.
The other was less defined but was pitched by a risk-taking developer who viewed the property as key to revitalizing the area.
Over the past several years, no one had showed real interest in 225-233 W. King St., but within days after being listed for sale two months ago, the county was looking at two offers, both above fair-market value.
And the prospective buyers wanted an answer. Pronto.
In the end, the commissioners chose the highest offer, for $375,000, made by Marcela Marquez, who owns the C-Town grocery store at 451 E. King.
The sale is contingent upon an inspection, but her agent didn't foresee a problem.
Josh Wood, with Coldwell Banker Select Professionals, said plans are to open the store within six months.
"We think we're going to be very beneficial to the community," he said after the meeting.
March Capital LLC, headed by developer Phil Wolgemuth, offered $360,000.
Wolgemuth stuck to his initial offer made Tuesday, despite the commissioners directing their real estate agent, Christine Sable, to ask both parties for their best and final offer for Wednesday's meeting.
Marquez had offered $325,000 last week and came up to $350,000 Tuesday when told another offer had been made. In the end, she raised her offer to $375,000.
The county listed the property for $399,000 in February, but that was before identifying water damage that Sable estimated could cost $30,000 to $50,000 to repair.
The property's last appraisal was in the $265,000 to $295,000 range.
In his pitch to the commissioners, Wolgemuth touted his work on the old Champion Blower and Forge foundry on Harrisburg Avenue. The site now houses Fenz and Sukhothai restaurants, Evolution Yoga and other tenants.
"Our time, energy, money and risk was the first ... in that area," he said.
He saw West King as similarly neglected but ripe for redevelopment.
Noting that after people leave Fulton Theatre, they walk left onto King Street, he asked: "How do I get people to turn right?"
He called the county's property a catalyst for redevelopment.
Gene Aleci, an architect who also owns property in the block, asked if the commissioners could delay their decision so he could round up others who shared his vision of developing the block, which aligned with Wolgemuth's idea.
Commissioners Chairman Scott Martin said he was ready to decide.
"I want this property off our hands," he said, noting it had long been available.
Each day the county owns it costs money, he said. Workers check on it, and the county pays insurance on it.
Commissioner Craig Lehman said if the prices were the same, he'd probably give Wolgemuth's plan the benefit of the doubt.
But, he said, the grocery store plan gives the county more money, is needed and will immediately bring foot traffic to the block -- a sign, he said, of a healthy neighborhood.
Commissioner Dennis Stuckey said he liked Wolgemuth's vision but that he wouldn't vote against the grocery plan.
"... I would be remiss in not doing two things: Accepting the highest offer and (choosing) what in my hope will bring a very positive activity to the neighborhood," he said.
Settlement is expected May 17. The property includes a 6,590-square-foot building built in 1963 and a parking lot. It had housed the county's defunct human relations commission, a district court and a probation and parole division.
When the commissioners marketed the property several years ago, it was listed at $460,000, which Sable said was probably too high. The county paid $275,000 for it in 1981.
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