Greensburg officials face the reluctance of a former city mayor after he approved the sale of a park last year for $ 16,800 less than the city paid in 1986.
Scott Brown, who served as mayor in the 1980s, addressed council members in September, asking them to use US bailout funds to buy back the park. It was sold to City Cribs, a development group, in May 2020 for $ 1,200. The company said it plans to revitalize the park as a public space with the old Art-Tech building next door.
Brown, however, asked why the city had chosen to sell the property, which it had paid $ 18,000 to acquire it. The space has been transformed into a park thanks to private donations from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and John Robertshaw Jr., among several sponsors, according to a plaque displayed in the park.
“It does what it was designed to do, be an open space, a green space open to everyone,” Brown told the Tribune-Review. “By transferring it to private property, you lose any assurance that the public would still have full access to it at all times.”
According to city administrator Kelsye Hantz, city officials decided to sell the property after being approached by City Cribs, owned by Mike and Suzanne Ward. The company had the property valued by a qualified real estate expert, in accordance with a sales agreement obtained by the Tribune-Revue.
Appraisal documents provided by Suzanne Ward show that Latrobe-based Kristin Sawinski Appraisals valued the property at $ 1,100. According to Hantz, the appraisal price meant that the city did not have to submit it to a public tender because the value was below the threshold of $ 1,500 that requires a public tender.
The sale was approved by council members subject to the reservation of easements for existing utility improvements and legal approval of the deed.
The sale came about a month after City Cribs – which owns several buildings in the city, including one revitalized to house Wight Elephant and The Trendy Bunny – purchased the old Art-Tech building, located next to the park. They paid $ 200,000, according to records.
“Someone couldn’t buy this land and build a building on it because of the facilities there,” Hantz said. “The mayor and council, whenever they were discussing selling it to City Cribs, it was kind of the thought process. It is not really an attractive property for anyone, but for an adjacent owner.
According to documents provided by Ward, the old Art-Tech building and the park space had already been sold together before the city bought the park space in 1986.
According to documents, the city acquired the land with the stipulation that the premises, initially a parking lot, would not be used as a photography supply store or to develop films, according to property records. The Art-Tech building once housed a photographic supply store.
The space was first purchased by the city to take over the electrical transmissions of the gas lighting that was installed along the streets, Brown said.
According to Brown, West Penn Power used the land for underground storage of electrical components. When the work was completed, city officials realized that the space, nearly 0.05 acres, was too small for another building. Instead, the nonprofit Go Greensburg, now the Greensburg Community Development Corporation, decided to build a small park.
According to Brown, who was on Go Greensburg’s board of directors, the organization solicited private donations to pay for the construction and hire a professional architect.
In total, the project cost about $ 30,000, not including architect fees, funded by private donations, Brown said. He added that the money was used to hire a contractor for the park.
Now plans for the park show the space remains open to the public, Ward said. The initial plans include seating that could be used by the public as well as fire pits, if possible. The mini pantries currently located in the park would also remain.
“You can come in and take out and eat in the parklet, or if you work at Wight Elephant and have your packed lunch, come on,” Ward said.
According to Ward, the old Art-Tech building would house RSVP Gifts and More, located in the front half of the building. The back half would house a take-out restaurant, which she declined to name. City Cribs is also considering adding a rooftop terrace to the building that could be used for various events, she said.
In response to Brown’s request that the city repurchase the park, Ward said City Cribs is maintaining the space and keeping it open to the public at no cost to the city.
“I respect that everyone has an opinion, but naturally when the status quo is challenged there will always be others who will cling to the past and want to demolish and be negative and create roadblocks “said Ward. “This is normal in all areas and not entirely unexpected.”
She added, “We’re not interested in going back. We are interested in progress and helping move the city forward in a positive direction and in a collaborative way for all.
At last month’s city council meeting, Mayor Robert Bell said the city can strike up a conversation with City Cribs.
“They have a purpose for this park, which is why they came to see us. But if that doesn’t work for them, then we can start this discussion, ”Bell said.