Last updated: July 21. 2014 12:17AM - 3950 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

King's College is interested in buying Luzerne County's vacant Springbrook Water Company building on North Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.
King's College is interested in buying Luzerne County's vacant Springbrook Water Company building on North Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.
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WILKES-BARRE — King’s College has submitted a proposal to purchase the former four-story Springbrook Water Co. property in Wilkes-Barre from Luzerne County.

The county sought proposals from prospective buyers as part of an initiative to shed unused properties and generate revenue for the cash-strapped county government.

Three entities submitted purchase proposals by last week’s deadline, said county Purchasing Director Mark Zulkoski. County officials say copies of all proposals will be publicly released before county council votes on options.

John Loyack, King’s College vice president for business affairs, confirmed the institution submitted a proposal but said he will leave it up to the county to release of the offered dollar amount.

The county had appraised the property at $124,000, though several contractors and architects who toured the building last month said it needs extensive work.

Loyack said the structure has high ceilings and a layout suitable for college use, though major renovations will be necessary because the building at 30 N. Franklin St. has deteriorated.

“It would be a multimillion dollar project to renovate the Springbrook building,” Loyack said.

The college is interested in using the Springbrook building for labs and other classrooms related to medical sciences because the property is close to the college’s medical building, tentatively called King’s on the Square, at the former Ramada Hotel on Public Square.

“It would be convenient because students in that building would only have to cross Franklin Street,” Loyack said.

The Public Square building will house the physician’s assistant, exercise science and sports medicine programs in addition to residential housing for students. Portions of the building are expected to be occupied by Aug. 8.

The Springbrook building, which is heavily finished with marble, also could provide space needed for a growing engineering dual degree program that allows students to take math, science and other courses at King’s and transfer to the University of Notre Dame to complete engineering courses in their chosen fields, Loyack said.

The county acquired the Springbrook property in 2005 in a package of former watershed holdings previously owned by Theta Land Corp. Two past potential buyers had backed out of purchasing the property.

The county had to stabilize the roof to stop leaks and sanitize the property several years ago because homeless people had broken into the building.

County Manager Robert Lawton said panels are evaluating the Springbrook proposals and three purchase offers submitted for the county’s former Valley Crest Nursing Home in Plains Township — a sprawling 27,474-square-foot building on 62.4 acres that has been on and off the market since the private nursing-home operator moved into a new facility nearby in early 2010.

The Wilkes-Barre Area School District had identified Valley Crest as one of several potential sites for a possible new high school, but the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board voted last month to remove the former nursing home from a feasibility study of new school options.

The Valley Crest property was appraised at more than $4 million in 2010.

The administration will present a recommendation on which, if any, purchase offers should be accepted for both properties to council’s real estate committee before its next meeting Aug. 12, Lawton said.

Lawton said he purposefully did not review specifics of any proposals.

“I’m letting the panel provide an independent opinion. At the end of the day we’re going to present all options to the real estate committee,” he said, noting the full council has final say.

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