Tuesday, October 9, 2012
After four years and $790,000, Summerville is letting go of the Berry House -- if it can find someone to buy it.
In an unanimous vote Monday, the town’s finance committee, which consists of all council members, authorized Mayor Bill Collins to negotiate a listing contract for the property, also known as the Teacherage.
“Best decision we’ve made lately,” Councilman Aaron Brown said after the vote.
That said, council doesn’t expect to make back its investment.
“There’s no question about that,” said Councilman Bill McIntosh.
He said whatever money the town makes from a sale of the property would go into the hospitality tax fund, because the town used hospitality tax money to buy the house in 2008.
The committee took the vote after a lengthy executive session that included input from Candace Pratt, representing the town’s real estate agent of Pratt & Co/ReMax Pro Realty.
Members didn’t comment much at the time of the vote, but McIntosh said later the ideal use for the house would be residential, though it could have limited commercial use, such as for a small bed and breakfast. Either way, the town would need to rezone the property.
There was some discussion of breaking off part of the property to add to adjacent Azalea Park. There’s an overgrown camellia and azalea garden in the large yard, which had been a selling point earlier this year when council looked into operating the house as an events venue.
However, it’s not clear whether the garden could be added to Azalea Park while maintaining the required lot size and buffers for the property.
Collins had been given the task this summer of coming up with a proposal for using the house as an events venue.
But it became clear that wasn’t a feasible plan, he said. The town would have had to spend at least $25,000 on paint and repair, and then likely would have had to buy furniture.
Additionally, the house isn’t handicapped accessible. Although that’s not a requirement, it limits interest in the venue, Collins said.
Collins said he’ll talk with several real estate agents. He’ll have to return to council with a proposal for a listing price.
The town bought the house for $700,000 in January 2008, then spent more money on repairs.
A story in the Journal Scene from July 2008 indicated the town didn’t know what the house would be used for, but floated the possibilities of cultural arts offices or an events venue.
Instead, the town for a time rented it out as a residence, then let it sit vacant as council grappled with what to do with the historic house.
McIntosh said the idea of an events venue in the historic district is still valid – just not for the Teacherage.
“In the end, I don’t think the proper analysis was done,” he said.
Despite the size of the house, there’s not much usable space for gatherings, McIntosh said.
The Berry House will go up against several other historic district homes that have been on the market for months and even years.
The most expensive home in the historic district is on Hickory Street, listed at $1.1 million.