Last updated: April 15. 2014 11:24PM - 2032 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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The Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority wants to step up efforts to find a developer for its historic New Jersey Central train station in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

No developers responded to the authority’s recent requests for proposals to buy the 6.24-acre property at the corner of Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, which includes a strip mall and parking lot.

Authority members agreed Tuesday to explore the hiring of a commercial real estate broker to aggressively market the property, said authority Executive Director Andrew Reilly.

The board also expressed interest in seeking assistance from professional real estate associations on how to attract buyers for a unique, historical property, Reilly said.

Marketing was not involved in the recent solicitation seeking developers, which was placed in local newspapers and on the websites of the county and Penn’s Northeast, the region’s economic development marketing agency.

Reilly said he will consult professional associations and prominent local commercial real estate firms to find out how they would approach marketing and the estimated costs.

“If the property would just be marketed to this area, that may not be enough. We need to know we’re getting the most eyes on this property from a wide radius,” Reilly said. Options will be presented to authority board members at next month’s meeting, he said.

Authority members wanted to see if any private developers were interested before entertaining a request to donate the property to the county Historical Society. However, some officials say the society has backed away from this offer, though that could not be verified Tuesday.

The Historical Society voted to request ownership in July to ensure the deteriorating property will be preserved. Payment wasn’t offered because society members estimated they must raise around $2 million to demolish deteriorating additions constructed in 1975 and restore the station, which was built in 1868 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The authority’s plans to renovate the station were halted in 2012 when county Manager Robert Lawton canceled a $2 million community development allocation to the cash-strapped authority because the project won’t create jobs.

An outside appraiser recently estimated the property is worth $1.88 million — less than a third of the 2006 purchase price of $5.8 million funded by county community development money.

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