Home Street sounds like an ideal place for homes, but it's taking longer than expected to see construction there.
The Warren County School District agreed to allow the City of Warren Redevelopment Authority to sell the property and split the profits. The authority sold it to developer Ruzhdi Bakalli for $10,000 with the understanding that he would tear down the former elementary school and build new homes.
The school was down last October at a cost of $60,000, according to City Manager Nancy Freenock.
Bakalli, Freenock, city planner David Hildebrand, and city code officer Alan Gustafson met last week to discuss the situation.
The promise of a major expansion at Northwest Savings Bank within 12 months helped convince Bakalli that the property could be moved quickly, Freenock said. The new jobs and the people who will fill them will not arrive until construction of the new downtown building is complete. That work is expected to take until late 2013.
A letter from then-City Manager Jim Nelles to Bakalli indicated that construction of the homes at Home Street was to be complete by the end of 2013.
With the anticipated buyers arriving later than expected, Bakalli is having trouble even finding someone to build the homes.
"Mr. Bakalli planned to place modular homes on the lots, but the price is excessive," Freenock said. "Mr. Bakalli also stated that he contacted a builder in Jamestown, N.Y. The builder informed Mr. Bakalli that he was not interested in the project because there is no money to be made in smaller homes."
The current effort is to find a builder who will construct homes at the site and pay Bakalli for the lots after homes sell. "So far, there have been no takers," Freenock said. "The lots are currently listed for sale and Mr. Bakalli is willing to accept a lower price for the first lot that sells as an incentive for further development."
If someone else wants a shot at developing the property, Bakalli is willing.
"Mr. Bakalli also stated that he is willing to sell the entire property for the total of his investment," Freenock said. "He wants to work with the city to get these properties moving."
The city is also interested in that end.
"The city agreed to assist in any way possible to move the project toward completion. I asked what the city could do to help. Would combining lots to make one-third- and one-half-acre parcels so larger homes could be constructed be beneficial?" Freenock said. "Alan, David and Mr. Bakalli all agreed that the neighborhood would not sustain larger, and thus more costly, homes."
"The City of Warren was and is very helpful in this developing project," Bakalli said.
He assured the officials that he will keep them informed of his progress.