After more than two years on the market, the former York City Post Office building has been sold to York businessman Themi Sacarellos.
The investor and restaurateur, best known as the owner of Round the Clock Diner, paid $350,000 for the historic 68,000-square-foot building at 200 S. George St., according to deed documents filed Wednesday with the York County Recorder of Deeds. Sacarellos was doing business as Molt LLC.
Built in 1911 and featuring stately marble columns and a grand entrance, the building had earlier been listed for $800,000. The 1.3-acre property is assessed at $1,480,440, according to the county's Assessment and Tax Claim Office.
The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service has been trying to unload the building since 2011, saying it's too big and expensive to maintain. The Postal Service office has since relocated to a storefront at 152-162 W. Market St.
The property's settlement comes about year later than Sacarellos stated in May 2012.
At that time, Sacarellos said he planned to preserve the historic features of the building and, though the building will require "millions" in renovations, the character of the marble building makes it worth the effort.
He said he preferred a single use of the building instead of a mix of commercial and other space, and he was considering opening a restaurant or a private club, or to lease the building to an attorney or another business. The 70 parking spaces are coveted in a city where parking is sparse, he said.
The building is located in the city's Central Business District, which is the most flexible zoning in the city and in which numerous potential uses are permitted.
The building's unique features present challenges as well as opportunities for the new owner.
The basement is a former bomb shelter, and the building includes a huge skylight that was boarded up during an energy crisis in the 1970s.
Sacarellos did not return calls for comment, and Postal Service spokesman Ray Daiutolo could not be reached for comment.
Called good news: The sale of the building and its potential re-use are good news for downtown developers, said Ben Chiaro, a brokerage advisor who focuses on redevelopment in downtown York for Rock Commercial Realty.
Chiaro was not party to the transaction, but he said there are some common reasons buildings are sold below listing price.
"I can't speculate on the motivation of the seller, but that comes into play," he said.
A motivated seller will sell a building for less, regardless of what the market value would support.
Also at play is the potentially extensive renovation needed to use the building for something other than a post office, he said.
"It's a specific-purpose building," he said. "Anyone who comes in there is going to have to find a creative adaptive use to create income. No matter what you do with it, it's probably going to require substantial improvements and changes to the property for any new use or adaptive reuse. ... My initial reaction would be that there's not a large pool of buyers for that type of building in this market."
There are probably comparable properties, or "comps," for which a value of the building could be determined using just general building criteria, he said, but adjustments would have to be made for the former post office's unique features.
Chiaro said the renovation and use of the building is a good opportunity for other redevelopment along the George Street corridor, including the new location of York City Hall, the YMCA of York's George Street Commons project, and the rebranding of Cobblestones restaurant into a gastro-pub with emphasis on food and craft beer.
"As long as there is an end goal of opening the doors of the building again, anything is better than seeing a building that was once a center of commerce go dark and not come back to light."
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.