A deal is in the works for the city to buy downtown Kent's most infamous landmark: the old Kent hotel.
Kent City Council voted late last night following a closed-door executive session to authorize city officials to make an offer to buy the building for $735,000. The vote included allowing for up to $25,000 to cover closing costs.
Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said the city has been negotiating with the property's owner on a sale price for months.
"This was not just a blind offer made," Shaffer said. "This was something we’ve been in active discussion about for some time now. The offer still has to go through all the levels of acceptance."
The building's owner, Gregg Vilk of Vilco LLC, did not return a call for comment from Kent Patch.
Kent Law Director Jim Silver said the offer is part of court-ordered mediation as part of two civil suits between the city and Vilk. Silver said Vilk indicated to city officials he would accept the offer approved by council Wednesday.
Council took three actions last night to buy the building:
- To authorize purchase of the property for $735,000 and to settle all lawsuits involving the property.
- To allocate city money to buy the property.
- To set a special council meeting for Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. to formally approve the offer via ordinance.
After final approval by council, the offer must be formally accepted by Vilk. Silver said the city could potentially take ownership of the five-story landmark by the end of October.
"I don’t have an exact closing date yet," Silver said.
Vilk filed suit against the city in October 2008 claiming the city's actions toward his property inhibited his ability to sell or redevelop the property. The city also filed suit, claiming Vilk owed thousands of dollars in fines levied against the property for violating city code while it sat vacant.
The building has been tied up in legal proceedings for at least 10 years. It's been even longer since a business operated there, and its upper floors have been vacant for almost 40 years.
Shaffer said she was "cautiously elated" about the prospect of bringing an end to the questions about the building's fate.
"The deal has not yet been completed," she said. "I am just very thankful that we have been able to work out a deal that’s agreeable to both parties. It’s been a long process that appears to be coming to an end, at least with this chapter."
It's unclear what the city will do with the building once it takes ownership, or if a plan is already in place. Shaffer said that may become clearer at Tuesday's special council meeting.
"I’m pretty sure I can tell you we won’t let it sit for another 30 years with no help," Silver said.
The purchase price approved by council Wednesday is close to the price PARTA paid for the former Car Parts Warehouse building just a few steps away from the old hotel. PARTA paid $775,000 for the former car parts store, which was demolished to make way for the new Kent Central Gateway transit center.
"The price was definitely a difficult part of it, but what’s the price of letting it sit for years longer when all the rest of the downtown is looking it’s best except for the old hotel," Shaffer said. "This has been something that council has given it serious attention as long as I’ve been on council, and I know long before that. It’s been the greatest point of frustration for the council, and so when this is all said and done I plan to crack open a bottle of champagne."