Altoona accepts McCrory proposal | News, Sports, Jobs

Altoona accepts McCrory proposal | News, Sports, Jobs

The city Redevelopment Authority Monday accepted a proposal from Christopher Cook for renovation of the McCrory building.

The authority had put off the decision a month ago, because some board members thought Cook’s purchase offer was too low.

Cook still must provide a commitment letter from his bank that he will lend him the money for initial statements and financial statements from his accountant in a more satisfactory format before the parties sign a sales agreement and a developer’s agreement next month, officials said.

Cook intends to finish stability — a new roof, a full-scale cleanout and removal of standing water in the basement — before winter, and then to complete the entire $2 million mixed-use project within three years, he said.

The board last month postponed acceptance of Cook’s offer, leaving open the possibility that the city would stabilize the building itself, then rebid the project, after some members were dissatisfied with Cook’s purchase offer of $1,500.

The city has invested about $130,000 in the derelict structure and may owe it to taxpayers not to overlook the possibility of a better return on that investment, according to those board members.

Cook’s was the only response to city’s request for proposals, and the purchase price is far less significant than long-term benefits that could result from his project, including tax revenue, argued others who didn’t want to hesitate.

Except for one abstention due to a conflict, Monday’s vote approving the project was unanimous.

It came after Cook had fulfilled the authority’s request for a timeline, information on the financing he expected to receive for the project, information on his recent financial position and assurances that he could get the roof done this year, he said.

Recently, the city’s engineering office calculated that it would cost between $300,000 and $400,000 for the city to hire a contractor to stabilize the structure — work that would have allowed the authority to rebid, according to Chairman Richard Fiore.

But investing that much to create a “cool, dark shell” that might attract additional renovation offers was probably too much of a risk, “with no straight path forward to recuping” the outlay, Fiore said.

Cook expects to do the stability for $300,000.

He won’t need to worry about “prevailing wage and other formalities” like the city, according to Fiore.

Still, the city’s initial investment justifies taxpayers expecting a “building they can be proud of,” according to authority member Ron Beatty.

“It needs to be top-shelf,” Beatty said. “(And) done in a timely manner.”

The authority would expect that Cook will keep it apprised of the progress of the project, especially if there are any adjustments in his “vision” for the

property, Fiore said.

“I believe they’ll work with me,” Cook said after the meeting.

“I’m excited, and I appreciate the opportunity,” Cook told the board.

“Awesome,” said authority member Jessica Sprouse.

Cook would not have bid again for the building if the authority had rejected his offer so that it could float another request for proposals, Cook said after the meeting.

But that is moot now.

“I want the public to support this project,” Cook said. “I want to unify the whole city.”

The stability will mean replacement of all the sheathing on the roof and as many of the timber rafters as necessary, Cook said.

He will be working on the McCrory project at the same time as he’ll be working on the $4 million to $5 million Penn Central building renovation, which began last week, Cook said.

The geographical and chronological proximity of the jobs should make work on both more efficient, according to Cook.

He expects the subcontractors he’s hired to do the roof, HVAC, electrical work, plumbing and sprinkler system for the Penn Central will be interested in bidding for work on the McCrory’s building, he said.

If he hires them for the McCrory’s building, they would move over in sequence after their tasks at the Penn Central, he said.

“The closer they are, the better things go,” he said, “less running.”

His own workers will do the basic construction and finishes on both projects.

Both will create commercial spaces on the first floors and apartments above — eight units in the McCrory’s building and 33 in the Penn Central.

Rents would be market-rate.

Cook hopes to receive historical-preservation tax credits for both buildings, if those are available in Harrisburg, he said.

There may be other kinds of tax credits and grant money available also, especially for the Penn Central, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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