WILKES-BARRE — A judge’s order Friday is expected to clear the way for the city to acquire the site of the former Hotel Sterling from the nonprofit developer CityVest.
The city does not anticipate any challenge by CityVest to the judgment of $569,112 that includes interest and fees, assistant Wilkes-Barre solicitor William Vinsko said Friday.
CityVest’s failure to respond to a filing that it appear in court to answer to claims for payment of expenses incurred by the city including the demolition of the landmark structure resulted in a default judgment issued by Luzerne County Judge Michael Vough.
Rather than collect on the judgment, the city will move to obtain the property, consisting of three parcels, as soon as possible.
“Our next step is we’re going to proceed with a sheriff’s sale to acquire the property,” Vinsko said. He added that he anticipated it being put on the sale list for mid fall.
A call to CityVest’s attorney George Reihner of the Wright & Reihner law firm in Scranton was not returned.
The city demolished the building last July out of concern for public safety and mounting bills associated with the building that had fallen into disrepair. It filed separate liens of $76,148 in January 2013 and $470,753 in November 2013 to cover expenses for engineering reports, inspections, concrete barriers for traffic detours, and the demolition put out for bid.
The city paid the demolition cost of $424,100 with a combination of gambling revenues from the state and Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development budgeted for razing blighted properties.
Two years earlier the city condemned the building on the corner of West Market and North River streets. The building had been vacant since 1998. CityVest focused its efforts on preparing the building for development. In the process it exhausted its funding, including a $6 million community development loan from the county.
Even though the county’s loan remained outstanding, the city, by filing the liens, moved to the top of position to acquire the property at a tax sale. Upon acquisition of the property, the city can market it for development.