NEW CASTLE SCHOOLS Bid rejection leaves historical-homes proposal in limbo
There were Ohio investors interested in the project with enough cash to buy land and move the homes.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Randall Hake's not sure what he's gotten himself into.
The contractor who helped develop Super Kmart and Lowe's on Ohio Route 46 in Niles says he doesn't know if he will submit a second set of bids for six historical homes in New Castle.
Hake met with school board members Friday to talk about plans to move the homes. Funeral director James Meehan, who bid on a seventh home, was also present.
On Wednesday, school board members rejected Hake's original bids, submitted under the name Cynthia Corp. and ranging from $50 to $500, after deciding he didn't have enough financing in place to move them. Meehan's $12 bid was also rejected.
School officials say they may put the homes out for bid again if someone comes forward with enough cash to move them to a new location.
Delay: Hake said he had investors with enough cash to buy land and move the homes, but the district's monthlong delay in acting on the bids scared them off. The delay in awarding the bids left only three weeks to buy land and move the homes by the July 16 deadline set by the district, he said.
Hake would not name the investors, but said they are Ohio people interested in historic redevelopment.
The homes are part of a group of 13 the school district plans to raze to make way for a new campus-style high school. In May they decided to put them up for bid to anyone who could move them to another location.
Hake's plan was to move the homes from Lincoln Avenue, Berger Place, East and Reis streets to a cul-de-sac that would be created on Grant Street, about a two-block, downhill journey.
They would be part of a commercial district that would be turned into offices, shops and a bed and breakfast.
Hake said the district's delay in awarding the bids caused his investors to tell him to look for alternative financing.
Foundation plan: That's when New Castle attorney Angelo Papa announced that the Historical Development Foundation would be forming to raise enough money to move the homes. The group is looking for donations and in-kind services for the development and will give out shares to anyone participating.
"A person who gives anything of value will have a numerical value arrived at and they will be given a share that can be redeemed later for cash when the corporation or foundation makes money," Papa said.
Schools Superintendent Joseph Martin said he advised board members to reject Hake's offer after receiving a letter from Papa saying the foundation needed more time to raise money and reading newspaper articles saying they had no money.
The estimated cost to move the homes Hake bid on is about $500,000.
School construction: Board President Lynn Padice said they will work with Hake or anyone with enough cash to move the homes, but only if it will not delay the new high school. Board members say they want to start construction sometime next spring.
Hake said it's going to take at least six months of planning and work after bids are awarded to move the homes.
He's unsure if he will submit a second set of bids for the homes until he talks to his original investors.
"They don't want to be involved in anything controversial and neither do I. We want to do something good," Hake said.