Middletown to consider offers for one of seven buildings it owns

Middletown will consider offers for one of seven buildings it owns in the city, and may even be willing to let one go for $1, if a business could put it to good use.

City Council Member Daniel Picard has pressed the city to market on its own the buildings in its possession, and in March said Middletown might sell some properties “for a buck,” after some citizens criticized the sale of a dilapidated building at 1316 Vail Ave. and two adjacent vacant properties for $1 to start-up micro-distillery Liberty Spirits LLC.

Liberty Spirits owner Mike Robinette plans to open a micro-distillery in late June in a nearby 4,000-square-foot building at 1357 Central Ave., and also plans a modest-sized tasting room and retail space there until he renovates the 4,000-square-foot building he bought from the city at 1316 Vail.

At that point, Robinette plans to keep operating out of 1357 Central while housing a larger tasting and retail space at the Vail property, which will be configured to face Central Avenue, with an outdoor entertainment area between it and Central.

As the public discussed the proposed Vale sale, Picard said Liberty Spirits wasn’t the only company that could buy city property cheap.

“Well, I tell you what, folks: Mr. (City Manager Doug) Adkins is putting together a list of all the properties that this city has. If you’ve got a deal, you want to do something, step forward,” Picard said. “Bring us your project. We’ll be glad to consider it. We’ll probably be willing to make you a deal where you get a building for a buck, too.”

Here’s the six-property list Adkins released, plus another building the city bought since then for $20,000:

* A building with retail spaces at 1200 First Ave., which are in the same block as the Butler Metro Housing Authority tower. Adkins said via email that the housing authority “has expressed interest in taking the building to demolish it and expand their parking.” He added: “We are talking to them but do not have any firm dates or terms of a transfer.”

Middletown took title to the property without spending money in 2010 after it was forfeited to the state, according to Adkins.

* The former Studio Theater at 1345 Central Ave., whose title Adkins said Middletown took in September, 2009, by donation without spending city funds. Like the Vail Avenue property sold this year to Liberty Spirits, the city once planned to demolish it. Once called the Strand Theater, which opened as a 1,800-seat showplace in October, 1929, and later known as the Studio, which closed in 1984, it was designated for demolition by the city in 2009, but the city lacked money for the razing.

“The Studio Theater and old Montgomery Wards are in such poor condition they should be demolished when funds are available,” Adkins said via email.

* The former Montgomery Ward building at 24 N. Main St., for which Middletown took title in July, 2012, after it was forfeited to the state for back taxes. No city funds were spent, Adkins reported. The city has been discussing demolishing it since at least early 2013.

*403 Curtis St., which Adkins described as “low-income senior housing – No immediate records available as to how we got title to the property. Don’t know how long we have had this.” A city document describes it as a group home. Here’s how the MidPointe library system describes the structure: “Located at 403 Curtis Street, this house was built by Lorenzo Dow Doty, grandson of Middletown’s first settler, Daniel Doty. In 1958, the building was renovated and became known as “the miracle on Curtis Street.” It then became known as Doty House, a special school and home for handicapped children. When Doty House moved to its new home on Timber Trail, Doty House became Unity House, a drug treatment center.”

The Butler County Auditor’s website also offers no information about sales.

*19 S. Clinton St. a commercial building. Middletown took title in September, 2010, after it was forfeited to the state for back taxes. No city funds were spent, according to Adkins.

*930 Ninth Ave., a social services building that Adkins reports was “part of a land swap that traded this property for the old Amanda school site, which became the site for the new clinic.”

*The former Middletown Area Senior Citizens Center building at the southwest corner of Columbia Avenue and Verity Parkway. Middletown bought this building for $20,000 that the city had donated four years ago to Higher Education Partners, for use by Cincinnati State Technical & Community College, which does not have a use for it. City officials say they may be willing sell it, renovate it for city use or demolish it to create green space.

Before City Council voted 5-0 for the purchase, Adkins told members the $20,000 represented costs HEP “incurred to date in purchasing and carrying costs associated with the building, in lieu of putting it back out for sale.”

When questioned by the Journal-News about the lack of a purchase price, Adkins responded by email that, “We donated the building but there were still legal costs, etc., associated with the transfer,” and said he hadn’t asked HEP about the carrying costs paid.

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