The city of Whitehall is expected to close next week on the purchase of Woodcliff Condominiums and will hire a property manager to oversee the property.
The city's ownership of the 317-unit, 35-acre complex at the northeast corner of East Broad Street and North Hamilton Road is the next step down what has been a long path since the city first filed a complaint against the property in July 2007 seeking injunctive relief, claiming it represented a public nuisance.
"Our focus will be on the transition and connecting tenants to resources that can assist them in relocating," Development Director Zach Woodruff said.
Whitehall City Council on Jan. 15 approved emergency legislation 7-0, effective immediately, which appropriated $10.3 million for the purchase of the property and related expenses, and to enter into a contract with Townhomes Management Inc. to manage Woodcliff Condominiums.
City Council authorized the purchase of Woodcliff Condominiums in September, but last week's action appropriated the revenue from the city's general fund to an appropriate expense account to complete the closing.
The city will transfer the funds for the purchase of 292 units and the development's common space to TransCounty Title on Friday, Jan. 25, while continuing to negotiate final terms on 25 units whose owners have appealed the offered purchase amounts, Woodruff said.
Meanwhile, remaining residents at Woodcliff Condominiums have been notified of the city's imminent closing, Woodruff said, and Whitehall has hosted public sessions to meet with remaining tenants.
Another session is set at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Whitehall City Hall, 360 S. Yearling Road.
The meetings are designed to provide owners and tenants with information about the transition and management, but also for the city to gain further insight, Woodruff said.
"We want to find out where people are living," as well as amounts and lengths of remaining leases, said Woodruff, who could not quantify a precise occupancy rate at Woodcliff Condominiums.
It is probable, Woodruff said, that no leases extend beyond April 30, based on a sale of the property ordered April 30, 2018, by Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Dan Hawkins, which included no new leases, typically no longer than one year.
Once all the leases have expired, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said, the city can take the next step.
"We will put out (requests for proposals) to developers and see what comes in," Maggard said.
The process and even the preferred use won't be unlike that for Norton Crossing, the proposed $50 million mixed-use development just west of Woodcliff Condominiums on the south side of East Broad Street.
Construction of Norton Crossing is expected to begin this year on the former site of the Commons at Royal Landing, a 42-building, 270-unit apartment complex the city purchased for $5 million in April 2016.
The city had multiple pending complaints against the property for violations of city code that were dismissed as part of purchase agreement.
The city deeded the property to Continental Real Estate Cos., which is moving forward with the development.
"(Norton Crossing) will set the tone for what is possible (in Whitehall) ... You will be proud when it is done," said Frank Kass, chairman of Continental Real Estate.
As it did with the Commons at Royal Landing, the city plans to demolish Woodcliff Condominiums, Maggard said.
The ultimate repurposing of the site "will complement Norton Crossing," Maggard said.
The city's purchase of the condo complex was possible after the Woodcliff Condominium Unit Owners Association, on May 14, 2018, voted 172-77 to accept the city's offer to buy the property, ending the city's bid to appropriate it via eminent domain based on the premise that it remained an unabated nuisance.
"We want to ultimately increase the quality of life for all Whitehall residents, and this site will help us to continue doing that," Maggard said.