Former Aberdeen High School, Moose Lodge, listed for sale

The City of Aberdeen has listed for sale the former Aberdeen High School on Route 40, as well as the former Aberdeen Moose Lodge on Rogers Street.

The former high school has already attracted interest from regional operators of apartment complexes, senior citizen care facilities, even facilities for the care patients with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.

The property, at 34 N. Philadelphia Blvd., was listed with MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate, of Lutherville, in early July.

"We've had some good inquiry calls," Tom Fidler, executive vice president and principal of MacKenzie, said Monday.

The city acquired the building, which was constructed in 1908, from Harford County in February for $1. The building was expanded in 1924 so elementary students could attend, too, and it ceased to be used as a school by the 1950s when the current Aberdeen High campus was developed off Paradise Road.

Following its use as a school, the Route 40 building was used for assorted community services, including Health Department functions, until it was closed in 2014 after a plumbing leak.

Fidler noted the building "certainly needs interior modernization," but its "bones," or structure, is solid. The former school is across Route 40 from the Amtrak/MARC train station, and it backs up to Festival Park.

"It all depends on the use of the property, but it will need an interior modernization based on the proposed use," Fidler said.

Sixteen organizations have made inquiries about the building so far, and Fidler has four conference calls scheduled over the next two weeks to hear various pitches for how the building could be reused.

Representatives of four organizations have taken tours of the building, and five more are scheduled for the next three weeks, according to Fidler.

The interest has come from facility operators within the Mid-Atlantic region, such as Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington, D.C., Fidler said.

"Right now it's more exploratory," Fidler said of the sale process. "We have not received a written offer as of yet."

He said the city has not yet put an asking price on the property.

The building has been marketed through online listing services, as well as a direct-marketing campaign to prospective buyers known to MacKenzie, prospects who have expertise in reusing former commercial and industrial buildings, or they operate senior care, senior living or senior specialty care facilities, according to Fidler.

"Our job on behalf of the city is to make sure we created an awareness that this property is available," he said. "That's our first task at hand."

The city received one offer before MacKenzie became involved, but that offer has not been accepted or denied, according to City Manager Randy Robertson.

He declined to provide details about the offer, but he said it would be considered along with any offers that come through MacKenzie.

The City Council has the final say on any purchase offer, Robertson said. The property will be listed with MacKenzie through the end of this summer, and then the council must decide how it will proceed from that point.

"They're looking for the best fit for the city, so it's not a function of who will give me a certain number," Robertson said regarding potential purchase offers.

He said council members are looking for a use that is associated with economic development, job growth and is "associated with bringing in energy to this community, so there's a lot of variables if you will, a lot of factors to be considered."

The city has also listed the former Aberdeen Moose Lodge, at 102 N. Rogers St., with MacKenzie.

The city acquired that property for $435,000 in late 2014, but it has sat idle. Some proposed uses, such as an Aberdeen Proving Ground related museum or an entertainment venue, have not gained traction.

Mayor Patrick McGrady, who was not in office when the property was purchased, expressed frustration last fall that nothing was happening with it.

The former Moose property was listed with MacKenzie in mid-May, according to Fidler.

Fidler reported to the City Council on July 10 that there had been an offer of $200,000 cash made to his firm by a group that wanted to build a mosque on the property.

"They're effectively buying the real estate, the land," he told city leaders, noting "the building is beyond the point of repair, most likely."

McGrady and council members Melvin Taylor, Steve Goodin and Tim Lindecamp agreed not to proceed with the letter of intent during that meeting. Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck was absent that evening, as she is caring for her son, John, who is recovering from serious injuries suffered in an auto accident.

The city officials noted the 1.16-acre parcel is not zoned for a house of worship.

"I think we should keep shopping, because we're not zoned for that particular [use]," Lindecamp said.

Taylor also questioned changing zoning for just "one particular property."

"At this point they should maintain their interest level," McGrady instructed Fidler. "If nothing else pans out, we'll think about it, but at this point we're not interested."

The city is also weighing a proposal from Jared Noe, CEO of Suited Four, a Harford County production company, to purchase the Moose property and redevelop it as a performing arts center.

Noe has made prior presentations to city leaders. He and his business partners must form a limited liability corporation to acquire the property, according to Phyllis Grover, the city's director of planning and community development.

Grover said Monday the city has received a letter of intent from Suited Four, but there is no contract of sale yet.

Fidler said his firm has not received any other purchase offers for the site.

"We are still looking at opportunities and prospects for the best use of the property," he said.

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