BG Council moves ahead on buying downtown property

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

Bowling Green City Council took the first steps Monday to create more metered parking downtown, provide restrooms for Wooster Green, and preserve the location of Four Corners Center.

Council evoked an emergency clause so it could have both the first and second readings of an ordinance for the issuance of $890,000 in bonds for buying four parcels of land on South Church and South Main streets.

But one citizen, Nathan Eberly, questioned whether or not the city could handle such an expense.

“After hearing for two years that we have budget issues,” Eberly said. “What risk is the city taking that might be an undue burden?”

Eberly also criticized the council for pushing ahead on the issue, without allowing for three separate readings to give the public an opportunity to speak on the land purchase.

Council assured him that while the bonds ordinance was moving along quickly, the actual property purchase would be given three separate readings.

Some on council tried to explain the wisdom in the property purchase.

“Mr. Eberly raises a legitimate question,” council member Bruce Jeffers said.

“We have to be careful,” Jeffers agreed. However, the land became available and city officials saw an opportunity.

“We tend to look at the big picture and the long term,” Jeffers said.

Council member Sandy Rowland echoed that support for the land purchases.

“Sometimes an opportunity falls at your feet,” she said. “You just couldn’t ask for anything better. We had one opportunity to buy it at a good price.”

The purchase covers four properties. One parcel is at 119 S. Church St., located just south of the police station. The former Huntington Bank Branch location has been closed for several years, but has drive-up ATM units. The city is interested in building bathrooms there that will serve those using Wooster Green as well as visitors to the downtown area.

In addition, the location has been eyed by the city for years as property that could be used to expand the police station. While there are no immediate plans for an expansion, the addition of an improved safety dispatch center is one of the city’s long-term capital plans.

The out-of-state owner of this property recently contacted city officials to discuss the building. The landowner also owns a nearby parking area behind Ben’s and the building at 130 S. Main St. – the current home of the Four Corners Center.

While city officials are not interested in owning the Four Corners Center building, they recognize the community value of that site. Located there are the Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown BG, and Economic Development office. The lease for that building expires on Dec. 5, 2020.

So, if the city acquires the LLC that owns the building and holds the lease, it can take ownership of the lease – ensuring no changes for the tenants.

City officials then plan to sell that building prior to its lease expiring, with a provision that the Four Corners Center be given a lease arrangement for the building with a rental amount set.

“Often in Bowling Green we talk about the importance of our downtown,” Council President Mike Aspacher said. “We want to acquire property that is going to support the mission of the downtown.”

Four Corners Center is not only used for the four agencies housed there, but has become a community meeting space, Aspacher pointed out.

The cost for the mini-bank area, parking lot behind Ben’s, and building at 130 S. Main St. will be $730,000.

Also being sold are the building at 123 S. Church St., currently housing Bowling Green Mirror and Glass, owned by the Bortel family, plus the parking lot to the west of that building.

An unspecified downtown business owner has decided to purchase that building and the parking spaces to the south of that building. However, the buyer has no interest in the other parking area located between the Huntington ATM location and parking lot behind Ben’s.

So the prospective new owner is willing to work with the city so that the purchase can be split, leaving the city with the large parking area that will connect the other two property purchases along South Church Street. The cost will be $325,000.

“I see all of these things as very positive developments,” Aspacher said. “This is a project that is very easy to support.”

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