County RDA: Could Cost $1.5M to Clean Conshohocken Verizon Building
Redevelopment Authority lays out challenges in selling the property.
Although an unofficial estimate, Conshohocken Borough received an early prediction on what it might cost to remediate the vacant Verizon Building at 402 Fayette Street, and it isn't cheap.
Jerry Nugent, executive director of the county Redevelopment Authority (RDA), told council at its workshop meeting Wednesday night that it could cost up to $1.5 million to clean the building, based on the RDA's initial impressions of the property and previous estimates submitted to the borough. And that doesn't include costs such as roof repairs or internal demolitions.
"There are significant problems that exist with contaminants like asbestos and mold, and lead-based paint that would need to be addressed," Nugent said. "Mold has grown over the years, and a significant amount of funds are needed to clean it to a level that would be acceptable for occupants to enter the building."
The borough has owned the building since council purchased it from Verizon in 2007 for about $3.25 million. Since then, offers of equal or lesser value have been rejected, while the building has fallen into disrepair. One problem is the roof, for which council received a $408,000 repair proposal in 2010 that they ultimately tabled.
Councilman Robert Stokley said Wednesday that he believes individuals who provided an estimate of the roof were ultimately at fault for mold growth inside the building.
"The roofers slit the roof and never repaired it," Stokley said. "They were trying to see how thick it was and never went back and patched it again."
In order to help sell the building, council voted to bring on the RDA this past fall. A county agency tasked with restoring blighted properties, the RDA doesn't have to play by the same public bidding rules as a municipality, meaning they can often more easily find a buyer.
Council also tabled a $20,000 contract in October to develop bid specifications for determining how much it would cost to repair the building, saying they were hoping to pass on as much of those costs as possible to a prospective buyer. However, according to Stokley, the mold growth has reached a point where it may be necessary to remediate the building before it can be shown to developers.
"I've been in the construction business for 28 years, and it's a pretty nasty situation," said Stokley. "We're going to have to spend this money because we can't show anybody the inside of the building."
Nugent agreed that inside of the building is hazardous, saying the mold situation is "one where you do not want to have anybody exposed."
One factor working in the borough's favor is its consideration of becoming a tenant in the 60,000-square-foot, three-story building, along with the police department. If council agrees to a lease, developers might be attracted to a deal where a major tenant was already on board, Nugent said.
"The value of that lease over some period of time would be supportive of a developer or builder who would take on the debt to put this package together," Nugent said.
However, council said that possibility was only one option, and that they wouldn't "handcuff" a potential buyer. Nugent said he expects to return to a February council meeting with more concrete estimates and options for the borough.