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Hospice gets more time to market Washington Street property

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The Hospice Foundation of Jefferson County Inc.’s Washington Street property will go back on the market after the potential buyer stepped aside to give the nonprofit organization more time to seek a better offer.

Diana K. Woodhouse, Hospice of Jefferson County’s chief executive officer, said Thursday that the foundation’s board has accepted the “generous offer” of Watertown accountant Jerry R. Gardner to amend his contract to buy 425 Washington St. and allow the organization six more months to market the property, possibly realizing more money from the sale.

Mr. Gardner’s company, N&G Rentals LLC, has a contract to buy the two-story, 5,500-square-foot brick building for $150,000. However, developer P.J. Simao, who has helped the foundation raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, objected to the transaction, contending among other issues that the proposed sale price was less than half what a state-certified real estate appraiser said the property is worth.

The sale to Mr. Gardner was set to close Dec. 19, but the board postponed it to allow an attorney to review the transaction. Mrs. Woodhouse said while the review was being conducted, Mr. Gardner proposed the foundation be given until June 30 to market the property. If at any point before that a more lucrative offer comes in, Mr. Gardner has the chance to match it. If a better offer is not received, Mr. Gardner will be allowed to buy the property for his original offer.

“Basically, this allows us to answer the questions that have been posed by the community,” Mrs. Woodhouse said. “This will certainly answer them one way or another.”

A 2011 appraisal set the property’s value at $365,000 while the city has assessed the tax-exempt property at $335,400 and estimates its full market value at $376,000. The foundation purchased the property in the early 1990s for $290,000. However, the property sat unsold for more than a year, and a second certified appraiser, who did not conduct a full appraisal of it, offered the opinion that the property was worth $150,000 because it needs $150,000 in upgrades and renovations to become suitable as a professional office.

The property was marketed in the first go-round by Christensen Realty USA, Clayton. At the time, broker Gail D. Christensen was a Hospice board member and the company agreed to list and sell the property at no cost to Hospice. Mr. Simao questioned whether it was in Hospice’s best interest to have a broker with no financial stake in a sale handle the marketing. He argued that even though Christensen Realty showed the property to dozens of prospective buyers, a broker with a commission on the line likely would work harder to complete a sale at a higher price.

Mrs. Woodhouse said this time, the board will hire a commercial marketing firm to list the property and is in the process of selecting the firm. Hospice no longer needs the property following construction of an eight-bed residence, including office space, at 1398 Gotham St. Proceeds of the sale will defray the cost of building the facility.

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