WCDA ‘open to suggestions’ at former school lot

The Home Street School was demolished in 2011.

It’s been an empty lot ever since, much to the chagrin of the neighborhood’s residents and city officials.

But the property is in new hands and the new owner — the Warren County Development Association — is “open to suggestions” about development options.

That’s according to Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry CEO and President Jim Decker.

Online county assessment records indicate that the WCDA – under the umbrella of the WCCBI – purchased the building for $1 effective Dec. 31, 2018.

Decker said they have had some conversations with the city regarding “unique residential development on that parcel” but said there are “no definitive plans” at this point.

“We are looking at what kind of options we have to redevelop (the property) and get it into use.”

The 1.72-acre vacant lot was originally the site of the Home Street School.

That school was closed after the 2004-2005 school year, according to Warren County School District enrollment data, and assessment records show that the City of Warren took title to the property in 2008, formally, from the Warren Borough School District.

Those records show that Home Street Development LLC purchased the property from the City of Warren for $10,000 in September 2011. The school building was also demolished in 2011.

Since then, little has happened at the site.

The Times Observer reported in 2014 that the developer, Ruzdhi Bakalli, approached the City of Warren Redevelopment Authority and tried to give the property back and recoup costs incurred totaling $63,000.

The RDA didn’t act on the proposal.

“I tried very hard to build homes. I went to many builders, but people are looking for cheaper houses,” he told the RDA in April 2014. “This was my mistake. I did not do enough research. The market isn’t there. I just want to recoup the demolition costs. I’m ready to return the property to you.”

The city informed him that the construction of homes was to be completed by the end of 2013.

By early 2014, according to Times Observer reporting, the city lamented that little had been done and that they had little power to enforce movement. The city filed citations in 2016 for violations of the International Property Maintenance Code

Fast forward to 2018 and the property was sold by Home Street Development LLC to Bakalli in October for $43,392 in advance of the $1 sale to the WCDA in December.