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Commissioners look to sell 3 Hancock properties

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The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle is vetting buyers for three investment properties it recently purchased from the Hancock County Commission.

BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said it's entertaining serious inquiries for two of the three properties — the old Newell stadium and the old Weirton Heights Company 3 fire station. The third, old Jimmy Carey stadium in downtown Weirton, may be more problematic because of its location, but he said it, too, has loads of potential.

"What's unique about the deal is the way it was structured," Ford said. "We bought the three properties for $500,000, but no cash changed hands. The county commission retains a security interest in the properties, and as we sell the properties we'll pay down that $500,000."

If the three properties were to sell for more than the agreed-to $500,000, Ford said the county would get 90 percent of the excess. The commission also retained the salvage rights.

"I think it's a good deal for the County Commission and the taxpayers," he said. "As opportunities develop, I think we'll really see increased demand for the three properties, particularly the two stadiums."

The Newell stadium property may well be the most valuable of the three, he said, since it's a five-acre parcel located along state Route 2. 

"It's flat, just a nice piece of real estate and it's in the heart of where we anticipate the greatest demand for real estate will be because of its proximity to the Marcellus and Utica shale plays," he said. The BDC had serious discussions "with a prospect who is very interested in the site, but no details can be released." Ford also said they've already had about a dozen inquiries on the fire station property, which appraised for $111,000. It's gotten a lot of attention from individuals in the auto body/repair business as well as the energy sector.

"It's a 3,000-square foot building with two large work bays and offices, and it's nicely positioned on Pennsylvania Avenue," Ford said. "I'm confident that one we should have wrapped up within the next 60 days. "

 He said the Weirton stadium property will be the most challenging, simply because it's nestled between a residential neighborhood and a steel mill. There's a playground at one end and street access is narrow and hilly. On the plus side, a maintenance building on the eight-acre property will be preserved.

"We really want to take our time and work very closely with the mayor and city council and even, possibly, the community, to determine what might be the best use for that particular piece of property," he said. "I feel most confident we'll be able to move the Newell stadium and the fire station in 2014. We feel pretty good about them. Those two have received the most interest."

Once appraisals are in for the two stadium properties and the site prep is done, Ford said they'll be prepared to begin an aggressive marketing campaign.