West Chester Activity Center purchase deal falls through — again

‘It’s like a rash, it keeps coming back,’ trustee says of center being up for sale.

Another deal to buy the old West Chester Twp. Activity Center has fallen through, and while Kroger has “expressed interest,” it appears the trustees won’t go down that path again.

The trustees inked a deal with Illinois-based Quattro Development in August to sell the property for $2.25 million — nearly the full asking price of $2.5 million that was set in January. The township received a letter from a law firm dated Nov. 14 cancelling the sale and asking for the $25,000 in earnest money back because they were within the due diligence window.

Quattro asked the trustees to shave $400,000 off the sale price last month after closer inspection of the property they intended to transform into a Montessori School for their client Guidepost.

Township Administrator Larry Burks said they were discussing the price drop but, “they were in that due diligence phase and in that period of time from what I understand the interest rates went up and it put them out of the market.”

Quattro co-owner Rob Walters told the Journal-News they just couldn’t make it work.

“When we got some bids for the costs of the renovations and compared it with the rent that Guidepost was going to be able to pay, it just wasn’t a financially feasible project so we had to pass,” Walters said. “I wish we could have figured it all out a little earlier in the process but we had to spend some money to get to the conclusion.”

Trustee Mark Welch said “it’s like a rash, it keeps coming back.”

“For me I think it’s a timing issue, I don’t think that the township is asking too much for this, I think that it’s right in line with the appreciation we have had in recent years,” Welch said.

Welch told the Journal-News Kroger approached the township after they accepted Quattro’s offer “and we just haven’t responded to them, they basically floated the same thing they had in 2019.”

ExplorePotential West Chester Activity Center buyers want price lowered

The Activity Center came into play after Community First Solutions stopped providing senior programming in 2019. Shortly thereafter, the township agreed to sell the building for $1.8 million to Kroger’s landlord Regency Centers, for a giant Kroger Marketplace, but that turned out to be a two-year debacle.

The deal was contingent on Regency Centers being able to acquire the Activity Center, the Providence Bible Fellowship church, a sliver from Chesterwood Village and easements and agreements with about 10 other property owners to complete the complicated deal. Kroger backed out of the deal at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

The township received a $1.9 million offer from Dr. Mohamed Aziz earlier this year, he wanted to create medical offices in the space. He rescinded the offer when the trustees refused to drop the price $300,000 after he found how much he would have to spend on required upgrades.

Another deal fizzled in July, the trustees were set to approve an agreement with a local family to create an event center but the offer was rescinded because financing failed for the $2.3 million offer.

Welch said Kroger has held firm at the original offer because “quite frankly their logic is you’re not going to give us anything for the roads so therefore this is about as good as it gets.” At this point he isn’t interested in resurrecting talks with the giant grocer.

“Right now there’s really no appetite for it, at least not with me...,” Welch said. “I believe that this parcel can stand on its own and there’s plenty of opportunities, businesses that could benefit from this with the existing building.”

He said there is no urgency on the township’s part, they own the building, there are no taxes, it’s just a matter of upkeep like mowing and plowing snow, “our cost to hold it almost nothing, it’s not like we have to be a motivated seller just to get it out of here.”

Trustee Ann Becker said if Kroger still insists on road improvements she would not be willing to negotiate because there is no TIF in that area, “so it would come out of our general operating budget and that’s something that we can’t afford, so if that’s a condition of Kroger’s offer, just out of fiscal responsibility we wouldn’t be able to do that.”

She said she would like a new Kroger there and “I don’t rule out anything until the board itself makes a decision” but she said they have to consider the value of the property now, not two years ago “and we have gotten offers that were significantly more than what Kroger offered.”

About Kroger’s latest offer, Trustee Lee Wong told the Journal-News, “it was the same offer, nothing new, they say that if anything fell through on Quattro they would like to be the back-up.”

He said he is not interested in re-opening talks.

“Not interested in Kroger they have missed their opportunity, nothing new from Kroger,” Wong said. “We want to get the best deal for the township, that’s all I can hope for.”

Kroger officials had no comment.

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