Saturday, Nov 01, 2014
Local News

AP Council tables vote to buy Brickell building


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– After parlaying with the bank who owns one of Avon Park’s historic buildings until July 24, a purchase price was negotiated with the City of Avon Park to by the Brickell building but a city council vote to buy it was tabled.

At the Avon Park City Council meeting Monday, the council voted 4-0, with Mayor Sharon Schuler absent, to postpone voting on the purchase from Citizens Bank & Trust in order to reconcile contradictions in a 35-page contract.

The 25,453-square-foot, two-story building at 2 E. Main St. at south Lake Avenue has been partially renovated and has retail and professional space on the bottom floor and partially built-out apartments on the second floor.

The city agreed to pay $370,000 for the building, built in 1919, which was valued at $1 million in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Julian Deleon, Avon Park city manager, said the adjacent seventh-tenths of an acre parking lot is estimated to be worth $90,000 and would benefit surrounding downtown commercial areas and could be used for public purposes.

The Highlands County Property Appraiser’s office lists the value of the building at $343,835.

The Council is also expected to vote at its next meeting to authorize the purchase in fiscal year 2015, using $120,000 from the Main Street Community Redevelopment Agency and $250,000 from the city Infrastructure Fund.

In 2012, the city wanted to just buy the adjacent parking lot, which brings the total area of the building to 42,602 square feet. The seller wouldn’t sell the parking lot alone.

“This historic building anchors down the city’s downtown,” said Deleon. “We have a vested interest in its successful restoration. The city attorney and I will work towards finalizing the contract. We just did not have enough time this last time around with price negotiations to wrap up the details.”

Avon Park City Attorney Gerald Buhr said Tuesday he would be working on the purchase contract, and wording and terms that might be open interpretation. He plans to have the contract ready by the Aug. 11 City Council meeting and anticipated a final vote on the purchase at that time.

“We just want to make sure it’s (the contract) is clear. I’m just concerned with the terms of the agreement,” he said.

Deleon said a 45-day due diligence period for inspections before closing would take place in the new fiscal year and the city could withdraw its offer for any reason. Also, the city has put down a $15,000 deposit which goes into escrow until a closing on the sale is reached.

During the meeting, Avon Park resident and former mayor, Tom Macklin, was concerned about the city giving a 30-day notice prior to entering into purchase contract.

Florida statutes state municipalities must disclose public record of a purchase of real property.

Buhr said problems with some of the contract terms needed to be addressed before a contract was approved, which hasn’t yet been done.

Deleon said the city worked as long as possible to reach an agreement on a price for the building which was mutually agreeable. However, he said the 30-page contract had some “kinks which needed to be worked out” by Buhr.

“When it comes to contract or interpretation of statutes, the city relies on our city attorney. These are complex matters and frankly, he is the trained professional with the appropriate experience and credentials,” he said.

Robert Flores, director of South Florida State College physical plant who attended the meeting, supported the city’s purchase of the building.

Speaking to city council, he said he thought it could be turned into a prime public-private venture similar to what happened with the nearby historic Jacaranda Hotel and the college could again benefit from its use.

“I’d like to see it happen. If done properly, the same could come from the Brickell building and it would add value to the area,” he said.

pcatala@highlandstoday.com

(863) 386-5855

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