City counters Harder Hall offer
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING If Arthur Marrero wants Harder Hall, the price is $3.4 million. Cash. No strings attached.
Published: November 29, 2012
Published: November 29, 2012
That offer was communicated in writing to Marrero, of MVP Properties.
Marrero originally offered $2 million to the City of Sebring. On Nov. 22, he appeared before the city council and explained that proposed changes the city attorney made to his offer didn't take into account the actual value of the dilapidated historic hotel, which has been vacant for years.
The city paid about $4 million when taking it back from a previous developer, and still owes more than $3 million on its Section 108 Housing and Urban Development loan. When Marrero originally appeared in October, the city's official asking price was $5.2 million, Noethlich said.
Marrero said that the last buyer of the property paid $1.8 million, back when real estate prices were strong, and then put money into restoring it. However, he reasoned, that restoration likely will be demolished because it's been ruined, and substantially more restoration will be required.
Three city council members met Tuesday to discuss Marrero's officer and voted on the counter offer.
The council committee's remaining terms: the community redevelopment agency would remain in place another three years; Tax Increment Financing in Florida funds could be expended on qualified project costs; and Marrero would have 120 days of due diligence.
During those four months, he and contractors would have access to the property to discover flaws which could kill the deal. He could also appear before the county commission to ask if Harder Hall would qualify for economic development tax abatements.
"And all the strings go away," council member John Griffin confirmed with City Manager Scott Noethlich, Asst. City Manager Bob Hoffman, Planner Jim Polatty, and council members Scott Stanley and John Clark. "That's where we get tripped up every stinking time. He can burn down the building if he wants to. Whatever."
However, the committee agreed, Harder Hall is listed on the National Historic Register, so Marrero is limited by law.
Marrero had wanted to keep the TIFF funds, but the committee agreed that the proposed buyer was asking for everything possible, as a negotiating tool.
The upside, Griffin reasoned, is that if Marrero is successful in restoring the property, people will move from northern states to live in Sebring.
"They got cars, they'll shop, they'll go to restaurants," Griffin said.
Another prospective buyer had similar ideas, council member John Clark pointed out, but he wanted to convert Harder Hall into an assisted living center. "You have to get state or federal approval, and they couldn't get it. You have to do so many beds. Independent living is a different thing."
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