After a decade of tax delinquency, the massive former Great Northern Press property on Gilligan Street straddling Wilkes-Barre and Hanover Township has been sold at auction.
Situated on two parcels totaling 7.2 acres, the building is 60,800 square feet and in a state of severe disrepair, according to neighbors and the city.
Cara Mattessich, of Scranton, purchased the properties at last week’s free-and-clear sale for a combined $12,276 on behalf of 1719 Mulberry LLC, of New Milford, according to Luzerne County’s tax-claim operator, Northeast Revenue Service LLC.
The buyer falls under the umbrella of Dunmore Exclusive LLC, which owns and manages properties in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Mattessich said Thursday.
Mattessich said she walked the property before the auction and believes the structure is “really sound” and salvageable.
“It’s a gorgeous spot,” she said of its location. “We strongly believe in Wilkes-Barre’s prospects for new growth.”
She conceded the building is blighted and needs work, saying a neighbor immediately approached on her recent site visit to express concerns and hopes for a remedy.
Work to board up open windows should begin in the next few weeks, she said. Rounding up investors and formulating a plan for the property could take two years, Mattessich said.
Two possibilities she cited: residential units or a hydroponic facility to grow plants indoors.
City Operations Director Butch Frati is eager to learn the new owner’s plans because of ongoing problems at the site.
“It needs a lot of work,” Frati said.
City officials must regularly visit the building because of break-ins and other concerns. Leaks have caused water to pool in the basement, at one point reaching a level so high the city was forced to pump it out for safety reasons, Frati said.
“The fire department has been up there many times. It’s on the city’s radar all the time,” he said.
A neighbor, who asked for anonymity, said she often calls 911 to report trespassers. The building most recently housed a printing business that shut down years ago and was previously home to a pool operation and a company that made parts for the military, she said.
The South Carolina-based Business Loan Center LLC bought the property from the owner of Great Northern in 2005 and owed $332,360 in unpaid real estate taxes dating to 2007.
Northeast Revenue flagged the property in 2016 because it had been removed from prior tax auctions due to a bankruptcy before Northeast Revenue took over. The property was eligible for auction because digging revealed the property had been part of a bankruptcy involving another company outside the area, and that case terminated in 2011.
Combined, the parcels are assessed at $851,900.
In total, 124 properties sold at last week’s auction for $1.56 million, including transfer tax, according to Northeast Revenue.
Bidders passed on 98 properties that will now advance to a repository where they remain available for purchase at any time.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.