The Marting’s Building that has been a millstone around the neck of Portsmouth City Council and the residents of Portsmouth since the city purchased it in 2002, has been appraised at one-tenth of what the city paid for it. In 2002 the city paid $2 million for the property. Now it has been appraised at $215,000.
The Robert Weiler Company, out of Columbus, did an appraisal of both the Marting’s Building and the Adelphia Building, also owned by the city of Portsmouth, because they had been contacted by Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen to do so.
“I called an appraiser out of Columbus who would not be tied to anything in Scioto County,” Allen said. “He had no vested interest and actually wasn’t familiar with the history. I didn’t want anybody to have any influence over what that document said, because if I got it anywhere down here, they’d say, ‘so and so has an interest. so and so wants to low-ball it,’ so I called one of the top real estate firms in Columbus. So I was getting an impartial objective appraisal.”
Allen said there was a reason to get the appraisal in the first place.
“Last year, somebody came to us and said they had a client interested in potentially buying the Marting’s Building for a retail establishment,” Allen said. “We get kind of odd ball stuff all the time, but this one, according to SOPA (Southern Ohio Port Authority) and us, this was legitimate. So we thought, we need an appraisal, in case anybody would ever come forward saying they were interested in obtaining the building.”
In the same appraisal were appraisals of other properties in Scioto County and comparable properties in other counties.
“What they do is, they find comparable properties to the Marting’s Building to compare price,” Allen said.
A history of appraisals goes back to May 1996 when a Hillsboro, Ohio company – Rittenhouse and Associates, valued the building at $2,386,000 in their first of two appraisals. In December 2001, John Kizer appraised the building at $762,000. In 2002, Ken Rase valued the property at $1,850,000. Rittenhouse and Associates’s second appraisal of 2002 came in at $2,469,000.
Those figures came from an online blog titled “Follow the Money: a History of the Marting’s Scandal,” written by Andrew Lee Feight, PHD.
“The problem with the Marting’s Building is that it has asbestos in it,” Allen said. “The wiring is antique. The structure is sound. It’s just going to need to be gutted and redone, and that’s very expensive.”
Allen said he heard the cost of tearing the Marting’s Building down was estimated several years ago at around $750,000.
“I don’t want a hole in downtown either,” Allen said. “But we have no plans. I have no intention of moving city hall in there. But I wanted to have an appraisal in case there was anybody who ever expressed an interest in it. We know what the building is actually worth. I have no motivation other than having it ready in case (some one shows an interest). I’d like to have it back on the tax rolls. So if a private entity wants to buy it I am prepared, with an appraisal, to take it to (City) Council.”
The company also appraised the Adelphia Building, at $150,000. That building was donated to the city by Dr. Herbert Singer through Portsmouth attorney and former city council member Mike Mearan.
“That’s mainly the lot. I think they’ll tear the building down,” Allen said. “They have somebody who has expressed interest in that – the lot and the building. There’s a parking lot to the north. I think they would tear the building down, so you’re buying it for the property, not for the building.”
Allen expressed the same concerns as others, including former members of City Council, have expressed.
“I just don’t think the city ought to be owning all these properties,” Allen said. “We’re not doing anything with them and we have already shown that we’re not very good landlords.”
A couple of years ago, the Daily Times did a complete study of all the properties owned by the city and many of those properties were in total disrepair.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.