A bidding process which ended Monday for a pair of city-owned properties on Murdoch Boulevard has apparently fallen through.
According to Titusville City Manager Larry Manross, only one bid was received for the Murdoch townhouses, while none were received for the for the Joe M. Ball Residence Hall. However, the bid for the townhouses, which Manross said came from a local resident, did not meet the minimum requirements for the sale.
The properties were donated to the city from the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville in July. The buildings were housing for students, but are considered no longer needed as the school undergoes a conversion process into a regional education hub. The new version of the school will not have students living on campus.
Titusville City Council voted at their Sept. 24 meeting to put the two townhouses and Ball Hall up for sale, with the former requiring only a single bid to buy both. The townhouses were offered for a minimum bid of $200,000, while Ball Hall’s minimum bid was set at $100,000.
The sole bid the city received came in at $150,000, according to Manross, making it $50,000 short of the minimum for the townhouses.
Moving forward, Manross said the properties will be put on the real estate market, and the city will continue advertising for interested buyers.
When asked by The Herald, Manross said he preferred not to reveal the identity of the sole bidder so as to not “single him out.” However, he said the matter is of public record for those interested.
The lack of a sale does represent a setback for the city, however. Manross had previously expressed hope that the properties could be sold before the start of winter, as then city coffers wouldn’t have to foot the bill for keeping the buildings heated.
Manross said he now doubts the buildings will be sold before the start of winter. He was unsure of what the cost of heating the townhouses and Ball Hall will amount to, but said that the buildings would only be heated to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It would only be minimum heat, you know,” he said. “It wouldn’t be real warm.”
For now, Manross said the goal is to get the buildings sold as soon as possible. He plans to begin making calls to potentially interested parties and advertising the properties.
The city manager also indicated that there currently are no plans to have an agenda item for the Murdoch properties at the next few city council meetings.
“They’ve already approved me to sell it, so really I can just continue with the sale,” he said. “I don’t need any additional approval.”
Much preparation has gone into the selling of the properties. Council enacted a zoning change, following two separate votes, through an ordinance at their Oct. 22 meeting to change the zoning classes of the properties. Originally, the townhouses and Ball Hall were classified as being in a special conservation district zone, which is typically used for parks or nature spaces but also allows use for schools and universities. Council altered the zoning to a multi-family residential district zone, which allows for some types of housing, senior centers, certain medical facilities and other similar such uses.
Ball Hall and the townhouses were also considered only a single property when the city first acquired them. Council subdivided the properties at their Sept. 24 meeting, making the townhouses their own parcel separate from Ball Hall.
Open houses for Ball Hall and the townhouses were held on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12. Manross said he didn’t keep a precise count, but estimated roughly eight people attended the open houses.
The sale of the properties has been a source of contention for some of the people who live along Murdoch Boulevard. The Sept. 24 council meeting saw many Titusville residents speak out against the sale.
A flyer handed out on the day before the meeting claimed that the city was planning to remove some or all of the trees that line the medium running up the road. However, both Manross and Mayor Esther Smith have denied ever discussing removing the trees as a possibility.
Ray can be reached, by email, at email@example.com.