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Aberdeen accepts offer to purchase former high school building

An offer from Brijesh Patel, of Keyona Investors LLC, to purchase the former Aberdeen High School building for $455,000 has been accepted by Aberdeen city officials.
An offer from Brijesh Patel, of Keyona Investors LLC, to purchase the former Aberdeen High School building for $455,000 has been accepted by Aberdeen city officials.(MATT BUTTON/THE AEGIS/BSMG)

An offer from Brijesh Patel, of Keyona Investors LLC, to purchase the former Aberdeen High School building for $455,000 has been accepted by Aberdeen city officials.

Patel has discussed redeveloping the building at 34 N. Philadelphia Blvd. — adjacent to Festival Park — as an apartment complex and adult daycare center, C.J. Koluch, of MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate, said during a City Council meeting Thursday evening.

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“We think this is the best use, is to redevelop it for housing,” Tom Mottley, of MacKenzie, said.

The potential sale of the building is “one of the most exciting things the city’s done in a long time,” City Manager Randy Robertson said to the mayor and City Council members.

The transfer is far from complete, though, as the city must advertise the building as surplus property and draw up a contract for City Council approval.

“Now we have some hard work to do in terms of moving forward to the contract stage and advertising,” Robertson said.

The city will follow the same process used to sell the former Moose lodge on North Rogers Street. A contract has been drafted between the city and Arthur and Ann Helton for the Heltons to purchase the former lodge for $50,000, then refurbish and lease it for a German restaurant.

The Moose lodge contract was subject to a public hearing Thursday night. No one commented, and Mayor Patrick McGrady said the council will vote to approve the contract at its next meeting Jan. 22.

The mayor and four council members did vote unanimously Thursday to give the city manager the go-ahead to draft a letter of intent for the purchase of the former high school.

They approved, for a separate measure, a $48,963 contract with Astec Inc., of Middletown, Del., to remove hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead paint and mold from the same building.

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The city has hired MacKenzie, headquartered in Lutherville, to market the city-owned former school, which dates to 1908 but has been closed since suffering major damage from a plumbing leak in 2014. The nearly 28,000 square-foot building sits on a 1.023-acre lot zoned for the city’s transit-oriented development corridor around the downtown Amtrak/MARC rail station, according to a city memorandum.

“We have set the expectation that the city wants a group to come in to add some real value to the community, to the building for a long-term period,” Koluch said.

The building has been on the market for close to a year with the cutoff date being the end of 2017, Robertson said. Patel submitted an initial offer of $375,000 Dec. 21, followed by a revised $455,000 offer Jan. 3, according to the city memo.

Robertson said Patel’s offer is “more than double” the purchase prices that have been offered, for similar uses, in the past.

Offers have come from “a lot of different people,” such as churches and schools, but housing is considered the best use, Mottley said.

The former high school and elementary school was being used for Harford County community services, including Health Department functions, when the water leak happened.

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The city acquired the building from the county for $1 in February 2017.

Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck suggested, “if it comes to the point where we make this sale,” that the city put the proceeds in a special account, earmarked to support the county’s construction of a community center in Aberdeen.

City leaders had discussed converting the former school into a community center in 2015, under former Mayor Michael Bennett. The city even paid for a feasibility study, but those plans did not come to fruition.

Landbeck’s colleagues agreed to discuss her idea, and Mottley offered his assistance, in his capacity as a member of the county’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board.

“We’ll talk, we’ll talk,” McGrady told Mottley. “That’s a big offer.”

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