WILKES-BARRE — The developer chosen by the city to build an estimated $35 million project involving high-end condominiums and a hotel and conference center on the site of the former Hotel Sterling owes $5,077 in back taxes on two other developments undertaken by one of his companies.
Public records from the Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau listed Alba Properties LLC of Wilkes-Barre as delinquent in 2017 school taxes on properties in the city and Kingston.
When contacted by phone Monday Hysni “Sam” Syla, a partner in Alba Properties LLC, said he was under the impression the taxes were paid.
“I don’t think so,” Syla said when informed of the past due amounts. “I’m going to call right away.”
According to the tax records Alba Properties LLC owes $1,599 to the Wilkes-Barre Area school district for the former Sacred Heart school at 607 N. Main St. and $3,477 to the Wyoming Valley West school district for the property at 416 Elm St.
Municipal and Luzerne County taxes were paid.
It might have been an oversight or the tax bills were not received, said Syla who was traveling. Nevertheless, he said he would send someone to straighten out the matter.
“I like to pay everything on time,” Syla said.
In his proposal submitted to the city for former Hotel Sterling site, Syla, a native of Kosovo, touted the work he’s done converting the former school in the city’s North End into luxury apartments and his plans for a similar project in an industrial building in Kingston. Another one of Syla’s companies, 126 S 45th Street LLC, renovated the former Wyoming National Bank building on West Market Street into luxury apartments and the Vault restaurant and bar.
In March, city council noted Syla’s track record in the local developments when it approved the sale of the more than 2-acre site to his Gateway Center Associates for $600,000. The only other developer, McClure Company Inc. of St. Petersburg, Fla. offered $650,000.
The downtown site at the intersection of West Market and North River streets is designated a Keystone Opportunity Zone that provides tax breaks through 2024. Syla said he will make $10,000 annual payments in lieu of taxes while the KOZ designation is in effect.
The city is in the process of finalizing the sales agreement with Gateway Center Associates, said city Administrator Ted Wampole. Once that is done, more information will be provided on who else is involved in the project with Syla.
At this stage, Asam Tahiraj, the owner of Diamanti Co. , a construction company based in Pristina, Kosovo is the only private investor that’s being identified, Wampole said. The company has completed a number of projects, but none on the scale of what’s been proposed for Wilkes-Barre, Wampole said.
Syla listed Aramark of Philadelphia among the proposed investors and the operator of the hotel and conference center.
“They’re in negotiations with other private investors,” Wampole said.
“This thing has to move forward first,” before the others are disclosed, Wampole said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.