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Ogdensburg parking lot sale hits snag when no one bids

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The anticipated sale by the Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corp. of a quarter-acre L-shaped parking lot across from City Hall, fell short of its mark last week when no offered even a minimum bid on the parcel.

The lack of public interest in purchasing the property means city and growth fund officials will now have to reassess their strategy for getting the property back in private hands and permanently back on the tax rolls.

A July 14 auction to sell the lot, which borders Caroline and Ford Streets, required a minimum bid of $30,000, the amount calculated by an independent appraiser, according to Andrea L. Smith, Administrative Director of the growth fund. Ms. Smith, who also serves as Ogdensburg’s Director of Planning and Development, said the property is assessed for $22,400.

Despite advertising the public auction and answering questions beforehand from at least four potential bidders, only one prospective buyer attended the public auction and did not bid on the parcel, Ms. Smith said.

She said that leaves officials back at the drawing board, trying to figure out a new strategy for putting the property back in private hands.

The 420 Ford St. parking lot has been owned by the Ogdensburg growth fund since 2011 when the organization parceled off and sold the former U.S. post office building located at the same address for $350,000 to the Center for Sight.

“Honestly I was surprised. I was surprised that no other people were there. I was surprised that we didn’t get the minimum bid. But really, more so, I was definitely surprised that there weren’t more people present,” Ms. Smith said Monday.

The growth fund’s first attempt to sell the parking lot, located in the city’s mixed-use residential and business district, followed strict guidelines set forth the by the state Authorities Budget Office, which mandated that the parcel be sold to the public at its appraised value of $30,000, according to Ms. Smith. She said the growth fund is now working with Justin S. Miller, a member of Harris Beach PLLC, an Albany law firm specializing in municipal law, state and local finance law, and industrial development, to determine options before trying to sell the property again.

She said one of the questions being put to Mr. Miller’s firm is whether there is a way for the growth fund to resell the parking lot for less than its $30,000 appraisal, now that the first attempt at garnering that price has failed.

“What are the options for selling it at a lower cost, do we really have a viable option for selling it at a lower cost? That’s what we are getting some clarification on, exactly the process that we have to go through to really do anything with it,” Ms. Smith said.

Ms. Smith said it is her understanding that the state senate and governor’s office would have to weigh in on lowering the sale price of the parking lot, should the growth fund’s governing board choose to pursue that route as an option.

The Ogdensburg growth fund will meet Aug. 13 to talk about the recent parking lot auction, and how the group’s board of directors wants to proceed.

Regardless of the legal answers to the organization’s questions, Ms. Smith said the original goal of selling the property to a private entity remains fixed.

“The growth fund still does intend to sell it,” Ms. Smith said. “That is still their desire, so we will continue to work with the different entities, with our legal counsel and then the state agencies to determine what the best course of action is to sell it.”

The Caroline and Ford street parking lot is one of three parcels the growth fund is managing in the city.

The other two parcels are the U.S. Post Office on State Street, where the organization has a rent-to-own lease with the federal government that expires in 2020, and a home rehabilitation project at 611 Rensselaer Ave.

The growth fund purchased the Rensselaer Avenue property from the city for $1 in April and is converting the dilapidated two bedroom, one bathroom home into a three bedroom, two full bathroom home that meets city codes, according to Ms. Smith. When the renovations are completed the fund plans on selling the home to put it back on the city’s tax base. The property was originally picked up by the city in 2012 in a tax sale.

“It’s a pretty good neighborhood, the homes are in good repair, it’s fairly quiet. So we think that it’s a good neighborhood for rehabilitating the home instead of just demolishing it,” she said.

Ms. Smith said the growth fund is managing a limited amount of properties in the city because the organization was originally created to help spur economic development by offer low-interest business loans. She said buying and selling properties is not the group’s primary goal.

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