Potential Newcomb land deal could be announced by the end of the month

Posted: Aug. 8, 2014 9:24 am Updated: Aug. 22, 2014 1:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Negotiations between the city and the only developer to submit a proposal for the former Newcomb Hotel property at Fourth and Maine continue more than a month after the sole bid was received.

"Hopefully, we'll have something to present by the end of the month, but right now we don't have any details that we can release," said Mayor Kyle Moore, who said city officials met with the out-of-town developer last week to discuss details of the potential sale. "I think we have a good framework hammered out, but obviously the devil is in the details.

"People want to see a positive outcome. Hopefully, we'll be able to deliver one pretty shortly."

The vacant five-story hotel that stood on the southeast corner of Fourth and Maine was gutted by a five-alarm fire in Sept. 6, 2013. The city has owned the property since November when it took possession from Victor Horowitz, who owed more than $500,000 in principal and interest on a development loan he received from the city in 2003, as well as service fees and back property taxes.

Sugar Grove contractor BSB Development Inc. began clearing the site Feb. 17, and fencing and barriers surrounding the property since last fall were removed in late March. The city paid $441,224 from its tax increment financing district fund for the cleanup.

City officials have estimated that the property is worth about $180,000, based on tax records.

Moore said the city will consider offering financial incentives to help any developer rehabilitate the site. Bids were sought for 90 days before the June 30 deadline.

"For a company to come in and do a large project, they're going to want something in return," Moore said. "That's what we're having the conversation on -- what's palatable to the city and what's palatable to the company. It has to make sense economically, and it has to make sense to the community in what their vision is downtown."

Downtown officials have said they would like to see a mixed-use building erected on the site. Travis Brown, executive director of the District, hopes that would entail commercial stores on the ground floor and residential units on additional stories.

"Whether or not we get that, time will tell I suppose," said Brown, who said he received inquiries about potential uses for the building before the fire, and more since it was leveled.

"Now, there's some renewed optimism for what can happen at that intersection."