Dunn and McCarthy land

The former Dunn and McCarthy site, a city-owned plot for over two decades, could be sold to Helio Health. 

For over two decades, an empty, city-owned lot on Washington Street in Auburn has been on the market. Now, after a health care clinic has expressed interest in building a facility on the empty parcel, it could finally leave city hands. 

Next week, Auburn's city council will vote on a land sale resolution that would allow the city to sell a portion of the property. This could be the second time in a year that the council could authorize the sale of 41-55 Washington St., the site of the former Dunn and McCarthy shoe factory that burned to the ground in 1993. 

Last year, Live It Fitness & Training, a fitness company with gyms in Auburn and Geneva, planned to purchase a portion of the seven-acre lot to accommodate a growing number of gym members at its Clark Street location. 

In June 2018, the city council authorized the sale, but the transaction never reached the finish line. 

Although council resolutions can authorize land transactions, a land sale remains contingent upon a number of steps including a closing, title exchanges and land inspections.

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In LIFT's case, the city authorized the land transaction and closing, but the buyers did not meet the closing deadline, which ultimately killed the deal, said Auburn Corporation Counsel Stacy DeForrest in an email to The Citizen Friday. The land has thus remained city property. 

An environmental concern started to slow things down for the land sale. According to a city brownfield document, the land parcel is "likely contaminated" with chromium, other metals and solvents that could've been left behind from the property's shoe factory days. 

Friday, LIFT co-owner Dennis Kelly said the site has some environmental issues, and that whomever buys the property would have to deal with them. Kelly also said LIFT had put a bid in for a piece of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, but the Washington Street project was declared ineligible because it was too far outside of a boundary established by a local committee. 

Next week, the city council will vote to sell the same land plot to Helio Health, a central New York health clinic that provides both in-patient and out-patient services. The health company plans to construct an affordable housing complex with some units reserved for the disabled. Helio is looking to purchase three and a half of the property's seven acres for $130,000. 

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Staff writer Dan Orzechowski can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or dan.orzechowski@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @OrzechowskiDan.