It's tough to sell a building that you think has a lien against it.
It's immeasurably easier when the lien you thought might be there doesn't exist.
That's apparently the case with the Liberty Street properties that were slated to be part of the Allegheny Center for the Arts, the keynote project undertaken by GRO-Warren, an economic development entity that crumbled last year amid financial difficulties.
A lien search conducted by the Times Observer at the Warren County Register and Recorder's Office on Thursday yielded no evidence that a lien exists on either the Natale Building at 229 Liberty St. or the larger Roberti Building, located at 225-227 Liberty St.
The contractor hired for the project, Eriez Construction, Inc of Erie, stopped work in May of last year after several missed payments.
In response, Eriez Construction, Inc. reportedly placed a mechanic's lien on the building.
The amount that Eriez claims is due is $527,818.44. The full contract for the work at 225, 227, and 229 Liberty St. was for $808,000.00.
However, the Warren Business District Coalition, commonly referred to as Warren Main Street, recently closed a deal to sell the Natale Building to L & D Real Estate, according to sale documentation.
When contacted on Thursday regarding the status of the lien, Jim Schreiber, president of Eriez Construction, Inc., declined to comment on the situation.
A mechanic's lien would give the contractor rights to recoup its money at a foreclosure sale.
According to American Law Media, a lien is "any official claim or charge against property or funds for payment of a debt or an amount owed for services rendered." Webster's Dictionary defines a mechanic's lien as "a lien against a building and its site to assure payment for construction work and material.
Asked how the funding shortfall came to be, Chris Cheronis, who was GRO-Warren's executive director at the time, said last May, "because of our involvement with Tim King."
The funding for the renovations disappeared when funding from a proposed 99/1 loan fell through, she said. "That was a big blow for us."
Under that loan idea, which ultimately fell through, GRO-Warren collected one percent of the necessary funding and King worked to find the remaining 99 percent.