Assistant City Administrator Bob Hoffman makes a call to report a broken door that needs repair inside Harder Hall.
published: Friday, August 16, 2013
Harder Hall proving to be a hard sell
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- Historic Harder Hall has long been a picturesque part of the city of Sebring. The aging building was once the place to see and be seen in the community, but after many years of ownership changing, nullified contracts, and terminated business deals the beautiful, historic building remains empty.
Last Tuesday's rescinded motion by the city council nullified a 90-day due diligence contract with a potential buyer who had shown an interest in the property since January.
"They just kind of went away," said Assistant City Administrator Bob Hoffman.
Hoffman said that a contract from the potential buyer was submitted to the city after requests for bids were sent out earlier this year. The contract was not accepted by council.
City attorney Bob Swaine requested that $100,000 be placed in an escrow account during the due diligence period, however the buyer's attorney never responded to Swaine's contract stipulations.
Hoffman remembers a period in time when Harder Hall was filled with life and excitement, though over the past two decades the building's reputation has become only a memory.
"I use to come here as a much younger man and dance here. There used to be a stage right here," Hoffman said while touring the property Thursday morning.
Harder Hall seems to keep attracting people with "big plans but not a lot of revenue" as one council member continues to put it.
Hoffman has been showing the property regularly over the past couple of weeks and said a number of ideas have been thrown out about what to do for the building.
"I've just heard so many things: Rehabilitation facility, a retreat, time share. But I think the most logical and best idea I've heard is turning it into an assisted living facility," Hoffman said.
The job won't be easy no matter what a potential buyer decides to do with the property. The building is divided into three sections -- the north wing, tower and south wing. The work on the north wing is between 60 and 70 percent completed. Bright pastel paints, new doors, spa tubs, carpet, molding and air conditioner units were all placed in the north wing rooms by former developer Mark Shenker.
Shenker's plans were never completed, however, as the hopeful developer ran out of funds for the renovation in 2003.
"Anyone coming in after them will have a challenge. It's going to be difficult knowing where they left off," Hoffman said.
For the past decade, developers and potential buyers have shown much interest in the building, but no one has yet to put money in the hand of the city.
Just how much money the city wants for Harder Hall is also a question Hoffman struggles to answer when speaking to potential buyers.
"I can't really give an answer when I show it. I have five people on council who each feel differently about it. Some of them just want out and are willing to take a loss on the price, then there's others who want what we owe and one who wants more than what we owe," Hoffman said.
The city of Sebring borrowed $4.2 million in a federal loan for the re-purchase of Harder Hall after the property went to bankruptcy court when the widow of former owner Lenny Lenoar could no longer afford the property. The city owes approximately $3.6 million on Harder Hall.
"We pay about $300,000 a year to HUD for repayment on the loan. The majority goes to pay off the principal. We've been doing that the past two years," Hoffman said.
Hoffman and city staff remain hopeful that a potential buyer will find a reason to transform the lonely Harder Hall back into the gem it once was. The property, situated between Lake Jackson and Little Lake Jackson, is approximately 14 acres and was once the shining star of Sebring.
"It's on the historic register, it's a beautiful building. I'd hate to see it sit and wither away, I know a lot of people would. It's definitely been a challenge these past five years but it can become what it was," said Hoffman.
Restore Harder Hall (by: Ande - 8/18/2013)
Back in the day Harder Hall was elegant and prosperous. Why not make it what is was? A resort for tourist, young tourist, summer camp with Tennis, Golf, Swimming and so much more. This would bring in business for the summer and during our high season people could enjoy some of our other attractions that Sebring has to offer. The dining would be a great attraction if you could get the right Chef in there. Musicians for all ages every weekend. You could hold dances again. There would be plenty of rooms available for the Sebring Races and maybe some of them would stay for the other options that could be offered. All the ideas that have been mulled over are good ones, Rehabilitation facility, a retreat, time share an assisted living facility but I think that it should be restored to its former life. I also believe that it would bring life into Sebring not to mention JOBS. HARDER HALL come one come all. Food, Fun and memories galore. (Harder Hall has a special place in my heart I just wish
Sell it at auction. (by: Concerned - 8/17/2013)
This should be treated as a surplus asset...sell it at absolute auction and be rid of it. Taxpayer dollars are funding the carrying costs of this beast.
Idea ? (by: J.R. Teffft - 8/16/2013)
Lease or sell cheap,Harder Hall to the Seminole tribe and allow them to turn it into a casino. The city will make out on the taxes, and the customers will spend their money here in Highlands County. This would add greatly to the reduction in unemployment ,and add even more to the funds needed to keep the city out of the red ink.
Harder Hall (by: tom walsh - 8/16/2013)
When is the City of Sebring going to bite the bullet and hire a Real Estate Agent who is well versed in selling commercial properties? The bureaucrats at City Hall have shown that they are not good business people by the fact that they now owe $3.6 Million dollars on a property that they owned free and clear.
sebring (by: Woody - 8/16/2013)
I Wonder why Sebring has to have an assistant administrator?
(by: Blindman~ - 8/16/2013)
There are ghost in the hotel. They enjoy free reign of the entire facility, but mostly prefer the southern undesturbed wing of the hotel during the day. At night they rome up and down the tower stairway. In the early morning hours shadows can be seen as if dancing in the tower reflecting off moon-beams as clouds pass over the night sky. Various aromas in the air have been reported during these sighting ranging from exotic perfumes to Cuban cigars~
garbage (by: what do i know? - 8/16/2013)
Seems the city needs to realize they are sitting on a whole bunch of garbage. The whole interior needs to be gutted, and the rest of the place isnt exactly up to par.People dont want to buy Garbage. They should have offered it to Amazon. They could gut the whole thing and put it to use and help stimulate the local economy, instead of holding it hostage, letting it deteriorate more in the hopes they find a buyer dumber than the idiots in the city who decided to purchase this thing from the start.
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