AUSTINTOWN Education board approves sale of middle school

A developer from Texas made a higher offer for the school building.
AUSTINTOWN -- The Austintown School District is selling its middle school on Mahoning Avenue to local developers for $2.6 million.
At a special meeting Wednesday, the board of education approved the sale to Ben Post and Martin Solomon, who will buy the land under the entity This Land Is My Land Ltd. Post and Solomon also own the Austintown Plaza and the land on which a new Home Depot store is being built, both on Mahoning Avenue.
Another developer, CDC Development of Dallas, had made an offer on the site. Hal Reisenfeld, a Cleveland real-estate broker representing CDC, made a last-ditch effort to persuade the board to take it's deal. But the board's vote in favor of Post and Solomon was unanimous.
The school building had been offered at auction Monday with a minimum bid set at $2.2 million. Post and Reisenfeld attended the auction but preferred not to be a part of that public process. They waited until it was over before they began negotiating for the property, which includes 15 acres zoned for business development only.
Higher offer
CDC Development made a higher offer of $3 million, Reisenfeld said, but did not want to offer a nonrefundable 10 percent deposit because of concerns about possible high costs of cleaning up the property. CDC was planning to tear down the building, and was concerned about asbestos and gas tanks that could be leaking into the soil. CDC also was concerned about possible problems with the title to the building, and wanted assurance that the title was clear.
Post, on the other hand, offered the 10 percent deposit of $260,000.
Reisenfeld questioned Wednesday whether Post's deposit really was nonrefundable if he found problems at the site were too costly.
"He walks and loses $260,000?" he asked.
Board members and administrators told Reisenfeld that Post's deposit, which he made Monday, is nonrefundable, and Post confirmed that the district has that in writing.
"My $260,000 is up," he said.
Better offer?
Reisenfeld said CDC had amended its first offer to include a 10 percent deposit with $50,000 of it nonrefundable, and the rest to become nonrefundable after a closing in 60 days.
He said he believes CDC had the better offer, with $400,000 more for the school district and a shorter time until the closing.
This Land Is My Land will not have to close on the property until Aug. 31, 2007.
Reisenfeld said CDC's development would have brought more business and jobs to Austintown. He said there was already a tenant lined up for the property, though he would not say who. He said the business would have been retail, and would have brought about 150 new jobs.
Post has said he isn't prepared to discuss his company's plans for the property at this time.
CDC's offer, despite being higher, didn't impress the board, which wanted to sell the building "as is."
"You can't assure us today of a purchase price guaranteed, without contingencies," said board President Brad Gessner.
The district will continue to use the middle school until a new one being built on Raccoon Road is ready in September 2007.

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