Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Council votes to sell vacant lot at 4th & Locust, multi-use building proposed

Columbia Borough Council accepted an offer of $56,000 for the vacant lot at 4th & Locust.

Columbia Borough Council voted to sell the long-vacant lot at 4th & Locust at last week's council meeting.

Council accepted an offer from buyers Mehari Kifle and Roman Gebremeskel for $56,000 for the .12-acre lot property. According to Borough Manager Mark Stivers, the lot was appraised at $56,100. Another entity, Cola Investment Partners LP, had offered $40,000. Public documents show the property is assessed at $42,000.

The lot is assessed at $42,000.

According to a drawing in the meeting packet, Kifle and Gebremeskel plan to build a multi-unit structure there. Cola, however, had proposed a plan to drop a storage container there to be converted to an open-air restaurant. (Cola Investment Partners LP is not listed with the Pennsylvania Department of State. When asked, officials were mum about the identities of the partnership.)

Kifle and Gebremeskel propose a multi-unit structure there.

Cola Investment Partners LP proposed an open-air restaurant made from a shipping container.

It's unclear why the property was listed for $19,000 less than the previous purchase price, especially when property values in the borough are touted as being on the upswing. In fact, the property price has steadily decreased over the past 14 years - which is surprising, since the lot sits squarely in the heart of the downtown.

The property price has steadily decreased since 2009, according to realtor.com.

The borough acquired the lot from JayDesh Properties LLC in 2017 for $75,000, with the intention of buying and demolishing adjacent properties on 4th Street, from Locust Street to Avenue I to make way for a multi-use building with shops on the first floor. According to Mayor Leo Lutz, the plan fell through when one of the property owners in the row refused to sell. Lutz revealed the existence of that plan at Tuesday's meeting.

At a previous council meeting, councilwoman Barb Fisher suggested that the Columbia Parks and Rec Committee could use the empty lot with the aim of converting it into a pocket park, but Lutz said he was concerned about "homeless" people congregating there.

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