Last updated: February 03. 2014 11:16PM - 2863 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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Prospective developers were invited to tour the New Jersey Central train station in downtown Wilkes-Barre on Monday morning, but none accepted the offer.

The invitation was part of the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority’s request for proposals seeking developers interested in renovating the historic structure at the corner of Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.

Authority Executive Director Andrew Reilly said one company contacted him to express an interest in a tour at a later date, but he is still awaiting a return call.

Reilly said it’s too soon to tell if there is private-sector interest in the property. Developers have until April 1 to submit a proposal.

“I didn’t have any expectations. We’re just testing the waters at this point,” he said.

Authority members want to see if any private developers are interested before entertaining a request to donate the 6.24-acre train station property, which includes a strip mall and parking lot, to the county Historical Society.

The Historical Society voted to request ownership in July to ensure the deteriorating property will be preserved. Payment wasn’t offered because society members estimate 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 an additional $2 million community development allocation to the cash-strapped authority because the project won’t create jobs.

The request for proposals was advertised in local newspapers and has been posted on the county website, www.luzernecounty.org.

Penn’s Northeast, the region’s economic development marketing agency, also has posted the property on its website, which is linked to the state’s listings of development sites, Reilly said.

If the request does not result in viable proposals, the authority board may discuss other options, such as hiring a realty company to market the property, he said.

Government entities must attempt to seek the appraised value when selling properties.

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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