At least four developers have submitted plans, and at least one offer, to buy five vacant historic buildings on Penn Street in downtown Reading, including one site where George Washington once slept.
But the plans and offer won’t be considered because the city, which owns the properties in the 400 block of Penn Street, known as Penn Square, wants to open the process to public bidding, most likely in early spring, said Mayor Wally Scott.
Scott, who declined to name the developers, said several are from outside the region and one is from out of state. One developer who represented several investors wanted to buy a building outright, he said.
“We’re excited about all the different uses we’re hearing,” Scott said.
Some of the developers’ plans included a condominium, an Italian restaurant, a café, a small business and a parking garage.
At last one developer wants to lease a building, but Scott said he would prefer redevelopment of a property that puts it back onto the tax rolls.
“We don’t want to be in the real estate business,” he said.
The buildings have been vacant and deteriorated since the city bought them for about $2 million-$3 million in 2013.
This month, city council ended an agreement between the city and Our City Reading, the nonprofit organization headed by Albert Boscov, chairman and CEO of Boscov Department Stores, tasked with redeveloping the properties.
The offers for the Penn Square buildings started coming in shortly after the city removed the fencing around them in December and cleaned the windows in preparation for holiday decorations to draw attention to them, Scott said.
The buildings will be cleaned next week in preparation for their sale, and a request for proposals will be drawn, Scott said.
“We want to know what [developers] want to do with the properties so they don’t just sit there like they have all those years,” he said.
“We need a garage there, and the parking authority is willing to float a bond and build it,” Scott said.
A 270-space garage has been proposed to be built behind the Farmers Bank building, a stately neo-classical building on the corner, and the building to the left of it.
“It’s a beautiful building but it’s shot inside,” Scott said.