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Florence Inn parcel sold to Heritage Bank at Master Commissioner’s sale to satisfy debt on property

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By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Florence Inn parcel on Dream Street has a new owner.

The Florence Inn parcel purchased by Heritage Bank at a Master Commissioner’s sale Thursday is located on Dream Street,adjacent to Interstate 71/75, in Florence (provided photo). Click to enlarge.

The parcel, which could not be sold through a traditional real estate listing, was purchased by Heritage Bank Thursday at a Boone County Master Commissioner’s sale.

Heritage Bank declined to comment on the purchase, but the Tribune has learned that the parcel was purchased for an estimated $462,000.

Northern Kentucky-based Heritage Bank has 17 locations, including a main office in Burlington. It also has an operations center on Dream Street near the Florence Inn parcel it just purchased.

The 3.67-acre parcel at 8049 Dream Street was appraised at $700,000 and the purchase at two-thirds of the appraised value ensures Heritage Bank ownership of the parcel.

A successful bid of less than two thirds of the appraisal allows the owner of the property six months in which to reclaim or redeem the property if certain conditions are met.

Heritage Bank will receive a Master Commissioner’s Deed, with no warranties. Terms and conditions of a Boone County Master Commissioners sale can be viewed here.

Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said the sale should bring an end to a saga that has dragged on for more than two years.

The Florence Inn was shut by the Northern Kentucky Health Department for repeated violations, and ultimately demolished. An exterior photo of one of the buildings shows the state of disrepair the motel was in at that time it was closed.

“The sale by the Master Commissioner of Boone County, of the Florence Inn property located on Dream Street , brings a close to a long-time code enforcement problem for the City and surrounding property owners and tenants,” Whalen said. “A new owner for this property will provide for the redevelopment, reuse and rebirth of this parcel, and the overall positive changes to Dream Street.”

Following an April 2015, inspection, the Northern Kentucky Health Department sent a letter to Sridar Kadaba of S & J Hospitality expressing its concerns about the condition of the Florence Inn, citing 20 violations, 14 of which were considered critical. Failure to bring the motel into compliance led to the decision by the Health Department to shut the property down in September, 2015.

For years, Kadaba had been primarily renting the motel as residential units for people who could not obtain more permanent housing due to poor credit history or other circumstances. The residential nature of the property also prevented Kadaba from performing routine maintenance and the motel continued to deteriorate.

Several merchants in the area also expressed concerns that the motel attracted an unsavory element into the area. At the time, the heroin epidemic was beginning to peak and the reputation Dream Street and the Florence Inn had developed was impacting the other businesses.

A series of attempts to bring the property into compliance were unsuccessful and court battles ensued over the fate of the property.

In August 2016, a court order allowed for the demolition of the troubled inn and the buildings on the property were razed.

The City of Florence and the area’s merchants and property owners worked aggressively to restore the reputation of Dream Street and it began to attract new businesses.

In May, 2015 Heritage Bank helped jumpstart that revitalization when it opened its Dream Street operations center, which includes its loan and residential mortgage processes, in a vacant office building.

“We are a community bank and we are very involved and very interested in our local communities,” Lytle Thomas, president and CEO of Heritage Bank, said then. “Dream Street had a bad reputation, whether that was fair or not, I don’t know, but sometimes you have to stand up with bold leadership.”

The Heritage Bank operations center on Dream Street is located near the Florence Inn parcel it purchased at a Master Commissioner’s sale Thursday

At that time, Heritage Bank moved 24 employees from locations in the area, including its Florence and Burlington Banking Centers.

“There was a building there that fit our needs, so we met with the mayor and the police chief and talked about our hope to go there and we made that a reality,” Thomas said shortly after the move. “We invested a lot of money in that building in the hopes that it would begin a domino effect down there and there has been a significant investment. Clearly, the commitment from the city to improve issues at Dream Street was a major factor in our decision.”

Despite the revitalization of Dream Street, the Florence Inn property could not be sold on the commercial market.

Gary Fisher, Vice President, Sales & Leasing for the Equity real estate firm, which listed the property, said the reputation of the Inn and Kadaba’s $1.5 million asking price made it tough to generate interest.

“The guys that got that property got a great deal,” Fisher said. “It’s right off of the interstate, with two large pylon signs that are visible from there. If that’s what they paid for it, they did very well.”

It is not clear what Heritage Bank plans to do with the property, but the proximity to its operations facility leads to speculation that it might consider an expansion, or a new facility, on at least part of the site.

Zoning allows for a range of uses and the property could also be split into parcels.

Mark Hansel can be reached at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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