Sunday, July 13, 2014

New owner of old Wilkes-Barre factory seeking local input

New York man says he wants to discuss with neighbors proposed use for New Grove Street structure.

April 09. 2013 11:34PM

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A New York man has purchased an abandoned Wilkes-Barre factory that was stuck in a pool of Luzerne County properties that didn’t sell in past back-tax auctions.

The property at 447 New Grove St. includes the factory in Wilkes-Barre and an adjacent 3.21-acre lot in Hanover Township.

The prior owner, 447 New Grove Street LLC, had paid $500,000 in 2008 for the property, which is assessed at a combined $717,800. However, city officials say that company never carried through with property renovations.

Alex Zbinovsky, who purchased the New Grove Street property through his companies — Future Horizons-PA Ltd. and Future Horizons-Hanover Ltd. — paid $500 each, or a total $1,000.

County officials have been pushing for sales because the tax claim repository has amassed an inventory of 750 properties — significantly more than all other similarly-sized counties in the state. New ownership returns the properties to the tax rolls and eliminates the county’s semi-liability.

Zbinovsky, of Nanuet, N.Y., said he will be reaching out to neighbors to discuss proposed reuse of the factory site.

Neighbors objected in 2006 when Volunteers of America proposed demolishing the factory to build an independent living facility for young adults.

Zbinovsky said Future Horizons is a “very community oriented” operation that has converted abandoned properties into “sustainable green buildings”in Wyoming and California.

The New Grove Street property is in “total disrepair,” he said.

The property was occupied by several companies in the past, including Rex Laboratories in the 1970s.

“At this time we will be exploring options that meet the community’s needs,” Zbinovsky said.

Future Horizons also purchased the former Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 128 on Stanton Street in Wilkes-Barre from a back-tax auction in August.

Zbinovsky said renovations of the lodge are in the works. He declined to specify plans for that building, saying he has not completed the permit process. That building is zoned for a social fraternity, he said.

“It won’t be a bar. We are keeping our options open,” Zbinovsky said.

When he bought the property in August, he expressed interest in converting the 6,500-square-foot structure into an elderly day care center.

The lodge has been in limbo for years because the previous buyer in a 2008 back-tax auction also defaulted on property taxes.

Wilkes-Barre officials have tried to attract buyers for the New Grove Street factory, which is located in the city’s Rolling Mill Hill section, said Mayor Tom Leighton.

“It’s one of those old buildings that will never go back to its original use,” he said.

Leighton said he looks forward to discussions with Zbinovsky about reuse.

“I’m hoping his plan and vision are something that will spruce up the neighborhood,” the mayor said.

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