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Op-Ed: 1 West State Street sold, while no one is looking?

Jul 07

Op-Ed: 1 West State Street sold, while no one is looking?

If you haven’t heard, there’s is a special meeting being held tonight to vote on the sale of 1 West State street.

You haven’t heard, you say? Well, Media Borough placed in on their web site home page around noon yesterday (that’d be about a day’s notice).

What, you missed that? Oh, well, I guess you also missed the classified ad in the Delaware County times. For one day only. Last week. On June 30th, expiring July 1st. (Is that one day or two?) Forget that it’s no longer visible on the web, because it expired. Also forget the fact that it was a print-only ad.

No matter. It just happens to be the weekend when many residents are on vacation. (Baltimore Pike last weekend was deserted.) Choice timing there.

It appears that Borough Council President Pete Alyanakian is trying to slip another vote by Media residents.

If you’ve walked by this building, it’s hard not to argue that this building is the landmark in town. It has the Veterans memorial attached on one side, the building looks stately with with its columns, beautiful windows, architectural details like dentils and accented trim. It’s a gorgeous building, despite the fact that years of neglect by both the former tenant and now Borough Council have started to show.

So, the first offer, presented on March 17th was from a historic preservation group called  “The Heritage Group”, for $650,000. The agreement of sale was mostly standard, except for the “time” to close was 90 days so that the buyer could get up to $750,000 in grant money to restore the historic building. The 1st buyer has proposed multiple uses for the building with retail and a restaurant on the main floor, and offices on the second floor. From a business perspective, this makes some sense as if one half of the building is vacant, the other half is in use. As well, the owner will occupy the offices.

On May 20th, nearly two months later, a second offer came in from Claudio Sandolo, who proposed putting an(other) Italian restaurant in the building. The offer was for an additional $20,000, for a total of $670,000, and the closing time was quick: 10 days total.

Now, consider this:

  • The building has some very strong easements attached to it which require the facade to be maintained in a historic nature, making it very difficult to change the exterior in any way.
  • The last two restaurants at this location failed.
  • The first offer has committed to spend $750,000 to restore the property.
  • The second offer has verbally stated he would “spend a few hundred thousand” on restoration.

I’d just like to condemn this “slipping things by” Media residents when its a contentious vote, especially for this landmark property. Sneaky Pete tried to pull a fast one in February when Alyanakian succeeded in stacking the committees in town, and it’s happening again now by having a special meeting with the bare minimum announcement.

Also note that it will not be televised (during the regular legislative meeting), and will be held in the small conference room on the 2nd floor at 7:30 PM tonight at the Media Borough Complex, so if anyone does show up, it will be standing room only. Three cheers for good government: Hip hip …

Based on the vote at last month’s legislative meeting, (where Monica Simpson requested to vote on the first offer and it was tabled … 4 to 3) and unless we have any surprises tonight, the vote will be 4-3 for the Italian restaurant, despite the fact that Monika Rehoric is on both the Historic Archives board, the Historic Architecture Review Board, she will be voting for the non-historic preservation buyer, which is truly astounding.

The reasons are probably as a far-fetched and as elusive as the meeting announcement, but from what I’ve gathered, the “closing date” of 10 days is the big appeal for the the Italian restaurant.

Of course, the first offer came in on March 17th, with a 30 day waiting period and a 90 days close. That would mean we’d have that deal done … July 14th. (March 17th + 120 days = July 14th)

But that extra $20,000 will really make a huge difference. I know! We can re-pave north Jackson Street and State street and move the bricks up another half-inch. That only cost $38,000 last year per the insistence of Jim Cunningham.

Personally …

The sad thing is once this building is sold, it’s gone forever. We trade in that corner for some cash, and that’s the end of that. Despite the fact we are selling the building in a real estate recession, and the opportunities for public use are great, I’m really confused what the rush is to get rid of this building.

My guess is “getting things done” means “getting things done regardless if it’s a complete screwup.”

Alyanakian and Rehoric have both publicly stated that the borough shouldn’t own property. They don’t mention that we own properties which have benefitted Media socially as well as financially.

  • Over $800,000 in revenues (yes, that’s almost a million dollars) per year comes from the Armory which houses the Veterans’ Museum and Trader Joe’s.
  • Media Borough owns the Media Theatre which brings in people from all over Delaware County, benefitting businesses and residents. They pay $1 in rent a year.
  • Media Borough owns the Media Youth Center building, on which Pete Alyanakian is a board member. They pay $1 in rent a year.

Should we sell these off, too?

The resounding answer is no. My belief is that we should find a public-private partnership for this building. It would make an exceptional museum, public space, library annex, small business center, or other municipal use.

If the two offers on the table are not enough money, then wait. There is no rush. Media Borough doesn’t pay taxes on the building, and the maintenance each year could be managed by using our capital fund.

In terms of tax revenue we’ll receive after it’s sold, it’s negligible: around $1000 per year.

So, if you care anything about what happens to this building, I’ll see you tonight at 7:30. Otherwise, the building will likely be sold, and out of the borough’s hands forever.

Kent M. Davidson, Editor

Classified Ad (now expired) placed by Media Borough last week

Did you miss it?

P.S. In case the notice in Google’s cache is gone, here’s the announcement, which does fulfill the minimum required notice for meetings. Once could argue if the minimum is what’s best for residents.

 

9 comments

  1. Raj /

    But the notice was done legally? Be sure to put that in bold font, schmuckers!

  2. Funky Mama /

    I agreed with you WHOLEHEARTEDLY Kent! What a treasure that will be gone forever if/when sold…and, at the heart of Media Borough. Another restaurant seems as crazy to me as the idea of another bank, bar or hair salon in Media! This building deserves to be preserved and as a tax payer and resident of the Borough, I would like to see it designated as a historic treasure and asset as the Theater and Armory are…and could be leveraged the way those buildings are (oh, wait…not the theater!?) for long term income and as an asset to the town’s future with roots in the past.

    BOROUGH COUNCIL: Please do not have the short sighted, unsustainable vision that this town does NOT need! Let’s keep this building and do something amazing with it!

  3. david palmer /

    Once again the stench of rotten backroom deal making emanates from the Junta members as they ram through yet another “deal”.
    With no real input from the voters,whose votes were canceled by their ethically questionable and morally bankrupt seizure of power, this bunch will once again saddle the voters of Media with an on it’s face BAD deal.
    Like the author of the absurd proposed fascistic ethical guide line for non elected officials said in another letter here. “The times they are a changing”
    It should be clear to anyone paying attention by now they may be changing but it is NOT, most decidedly NOT for the better.

  4. Rats /

    SOLD! To yet another restauranteur…let’s just hope that he restores it, maintains it, and stays in business. This was a bad move, Council. Shame on you for your greedy, back room politics. We should have kept this building in possession of the borough. Now, gone for good!

  5. Monica Simpson /

    Please note that the vote was 4-3 and not a unanimous decision. I am deeply disappointed in the outcome and believe that it is not in the best interest of the residents and business community in Media.

  6. david palmer /

    I AM curious, since there aren’t supposed to be any “secret” or private deals, Sunshine law and all that…HOW DID THE REPUB PARTY KNOW 33 MINUTES BEFORE THE MEETING that the sale was a done deal?!!

  7. Median /

    @david: While I agree that your question is important to consider, Sunshine laws simply prevent a quorum of Borough Council members from meeting without public notice. So, technically, any three members of Council can meet privately and it is not against the Sunshine law. Sunshine laws do help keep public matters public, but I don’t know if it really relates to this case.

  8. Median /

    And one final note: The implication, I believe, is that the outcome of the vote was set before the meeting, and known by others close to those who made the decision. The meaning is that regardless of public input, the vote was set in stone ahead of time.

    • david palmer /

      EXACTLY! Before any VOTE or meeting or public input the junta met SECRETLY and cut the deal.
      Democracy? The junta don need no stinking DEMOCRACY!!!!!