Our opinion: No bidders for the dream
There are two high-profile properties in downtown Warren whose owners are so far behind in their taxes that they have been offered for public sale in an effort to satisfy the liens.
A third, though hardly high profile, is inextricably tied to the other two.
The two properties with the most public recognition are 301-303 Pennsylvania Ave. W. and 225-227 Liberty Street. The former is owned by Bob Yoder’s development group, which promoted and ultimately remade most of the 300-block of Pennsylvania Avenue. It is, admittedly, more handsome than what was there before.
Those addresses plus the row of fairly handsome, yet empty-save-one, townhouses behind were the keystone of the Impact Warren Project born nearly a decade ago. The townhouses were not part of the sale.
The Liberty Street property, a sinkhole of public funding, was an extension of Impact Warren that was supposed to extend the urban renaissance farther into the city’s middle. It is owned by the Warren Business District Coalition.
The third parcel is singularly curious and consists of a narrow strip of land between the mythical hotel-conference center and the Allegheny River. It is owned by Geothermal Energy Systems LLC, a limited liability corporation established in 2006 by – you guessed it – Bob Yoder.
All three properties were presented at auction at the courthouse earlier this week, and none sold. Should nothing more happen between now and a year from now, they will be offered “free and clear” of liens and incumberances at a judicial sale. Translation: A chance for someone to pick up some prime downtown real estate for a song.
What do all three of these properties have in common? They were all touched by the tentacles of the on-again-off-again partnership between Yoder and Tim King, the erstwhile hotel-conference center developer who left town and hasn’t been heard from for more than a year.
Meanwhile, without the same promotional fanfare and public assistance, downtown Warren is improving in other ways. Northwest Savings Bank’s new corporate building has taken shape and could more make up for the taxes lost from those other three properties.