MEADVILLE — Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crawford County government has spent a total of $1.5 million in the past 22 months on the former Talon Inc. site on Arch Street in Meadville — a property and buildings it still hasn’t decided if it will use.
The county has spent $1.6 million on the former Talon Inc. site and earned just under $96,000 in income from rent during the period, according to records from the Crawford County Finance Office.
Potential reuse of the Talon Inc. site as a county courts complex is part of a $25.3 million proposal to alleviate overcrowding at the Crawford County Courthouse in downtown Meadville. The proposal would split courthouse offices between the present courthouse building and Talon site, but county commissioners have taken no formal vote on whether to proceed with the project.
A lack of action is no reflection on the current board of commissioners, according to Francis Weiderspahn, the chairman of the current board.
Weiderspahn said that determining what to do with the former Talon site won’t happen until the county gets its finances in shape — including determining how much it could borrow if the county chooses to move forward with the project.
“We need to know where we stand,” Weiderspahn said. “Otherwise, I’m not comfortable.”
Is the estimated pricetag for renovating the courthouse and former Talon building reasonable? And wouldn’t the county save money if it rented the space it needed instead?
We put those questions to some experts. Regarding the overall cost, it appears this project is on target, but the issue of renting versus renovating in much less clear.
Based on a $25.3 million project and the total of 174,000 square feet of space for the courthouse and Talon site — 64,000 square feet at the courthouse and 110,000 square feet at Talon — the per square foot cost to renovate is $145.40 without factoring in the cost to the county of borrowing the money to pay for the project. Currently, that cost is unknown as the county’s Board of Commissioners has yet to ask banks for proposals.
The $145.40 per square foot to renovate isn’t unreasonable, given the fact both sites have brick and stone structures built more than a half-century ago, according to Tom Montagna, president of the Builders Association of Northwest Pennsylvania.
“The shell is up, but now you have to apply current building codes,” said Montagna. “You have to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant for handicapped accessibility. Anything you touch has to be brought up to code.”
If the county opted to rent that same amount of office space in Meadville — 174,000 square feet — it may cost $4 to $14 per square foot per year, according to several local Realtors. The wide range is based on a number of factors including condition of the property, location, handicapped accessibility and parking, according to Realtors.
Based on a $4 per square foot cost, a lease for 174,000 square feet is $696,000 a year, or $17.4 million for 25 years. If just 110,000 square feet are leased, the same $4 cost would be $440,000 a year or $11 million for 25 years. The 25-year total doesn’t factor in any rent increase.
Based on a cost of $14 per square foot, a lease for 174,000 square feet is $2,436,000 a year, or $60.9 million for 25 years. If just 110,000 square feet are leased, the same $14 cost would be $1.54 million a year, or $38.5 million for 25 years. The 25-year total doesn’t factor in any rent increase.