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POTENTIAL & COST: Purchase of former-BonaDent building by Seneca County has multiple layers

There are several layers to the sale of the former BonaDent building near the Seneca County Municipal Building.

The sale itself drew controversy, which was voted on by the Seneca County Board of Supervisors in August where County Manager John Sheppard was authorized to negotiate a deal for the former BonaDent building from Bruce Henry, LLC.

In September, the County began a search for tenants to fill the unused space inside the facility. Seneca County only had plans to use approximately 31,000 of the 40,000 square foot building.

During the Thanksgiving week — the FingerLakes1.com Newsroom received an email from one concerned real estate developer in Waterloo, who felt as though his tenants were being unfairly targeted by the county. That developer was New York City native Lee Bieber, who has spent the last two years developing the properties he purchased. A restaurant, art gallery, and weekend flea market where the previous Save-a-Lot was located — to name just a few.

His concern was over two tenants, which accounted for more than 30 percent of his rental revenue. One of those tenants signed an agreement in principle during the month of September to move into the former BonaDent building by November 1st.

Glove House, Inc., which serves youth and families in crisis had previously been located in the Waterloo Mall. When the deal was struck with Seneca County to move into the newly acquired BonaDent space — even at greater cost to them — they jumped.

Sheppard expressed his surprise with the entire situation. “They came to me,” he said of Glove House, who he wasn’t sure was a viable tenant at “fair market” value. “We started volleying back-and-forth to strike a deal,” Sheppard explained of the process. He said that Glove House was out of lease and operating on a month-to-month basis at the Waterloo Mall location.

“We worked with Bruce Henry, LLC. to determine ‘fair market value’ and that comes out to approximately $7 per square-foot,” Sheppard said of those remaining 8- to 9- thousand square feet of unused office space inside the former BonaDent facility.

The lease agreement entered between Seneca County and Glove House is a one-year agreement. It includes the predetermined rent value, which was identified as $7 per square foot, in addition to a payment of 10 percent of the building’s utilities.

Sheppard says that when all is said and done, Glove House will end up paying more per month to be housed in the former BonaDent facility — than they would have staying put at the Waterloo Mall.

The second tenant, which was later identified as Cornell Cooperative Extension was said to be nixed from consideration. They will remain at the Waterloo Mall.

According to Sheppard, identifying partners to enter the facility with the County is only part of the challenge right now.

Another layer to this developing story is the status of a facility management plan, which would identify the uses of the varying portions of the eastern 20,000 square feet of the former BonaDent building. That will require a reconfiguration of the offices and services located at the current Seneca County Municipal Building, as well as some of the services at the decaying Seneca County Public Health building.

Sheppard explained on Monday that the deal between Bruce Henry, LLC and Seneca County is a two part arrangement. First, there is what serves as the sale agreement, which outlined the rules the two parties would be moving forward under. The second part is an occupancy agreement.

Part of the terms agreed to by Seneca County asserted that they would have specific construction plans to Bruce Henry, LLC. by January 1st, 2017 for that reconfiguration. Those construction plans would come in form of a facility management plan, which has not been voted on yet by the full-board.

Sheppard described the facility management plan as a “far along work in progress,” which has been partially subject to a couple board votes. One of those votes happened in November at the board’s regular meeting, where they accepted Passero Associates’ recommendation to move select departments to the former BonaDent facility.

When Standing Committees met in Seneca County at the end of November, a resolution was voted on, which Sheppard said contradicts the earlier full-board move. He said it also jeopardizes the facility management plan.

Having that facility management plan hammered out in black-and-white is crucial. While there are board members who have said that they do not agree with the ultimate decision to purchase the former BonaDent building, failing to enact a completed facility management plan by January 1st could cost the Seneca County $250,000.

According to the terms, a charge of $50,000 per month would be levied against Seneca County since the date of the deal, which was September 1st, 2016. It would also give Bruce Henry, LLC. the opportunity to walk away from the deal on that date.

Sheppard said he hopes that the board takes action to ultimately adopt the facility management plan so the county can move forward. The supervisors will also be voting on the budget. Both of these items will be on the agenda at the meeting scheduled for December 13th.

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