By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The downtown building at 26 N. Phelps St. that houses Pig Iron Press was sold at sheriff’s auction Tuesday for $90,000.
Mike Naffah of Naffah Development, a real-estate development company based in Canfield, was the high bidder for the three-story building built in 1910.
Naffah said that he has not settled on a specific use for the building but that its development will be a joint venture with Dominic Marchionda, a downtown developer whose properties include the Erie Terminal apartment building.
Naffah’s holdings include the Ironwood Drive properties in Canfield Township, including the Hampton Inn, a small shopping plaza that includes Inner Circle Pizza, the soon-to-open Whitefire Grill, and the Inn at Ironwood, a retirement community.
The previous owner of the building was Jim Villani, who owed $6,238 in back taxes to American Tax Funding of Jupiter, Fla., which bought the lien from Mahoning County. But he made a payment of $5,000 just before the sheriff’s sale, bringing the unpaid balance to $1,328.
Villani bought the 6,500-square-foot building 20 years ago. He used it as the base of operations for Pig Iron Press, an independent publishing company that he started 40 years ago. Pig Iron has published 125 books in that span.
An instructor at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh and Stark State College in Canton, Villani also used the Pig Iron building to host gatherings of area writers and poets groups.
Also on the block at Tuesday’s sheriff’s sale was Villani’s home on Brookwood Drive in Boardman. The home received no bidders and will be available at the next sheriff’s sale March 19.
Villani said that he is considering exercising his right to redeem, a tenet of foreclosure law that would nullify the sale of the Pig Iron building if the unpaid tax bill is paid before the sale is confirmed.
He will first determine what his financial gain from the sheriff sale will be before deciding whether to exercise the option. Villani has had a series of fundraisers to pay the tax lien and has another one planned the first week of April.
In any event, Villani said he plans to keep Pig Iron Press alive, even if he has to find a new location.
Villani already had put the building up for sale prior to the sheriff’s sale. It was listed with Howard Hanna Realty with an asking price of $95,000.