For what it's worth

August 30, 2011

Is Main Street property in Bel Air worth more than $2 million an acre?

Based on what the Bel Air town commissioners are willing to pay for .44 of an acre that served as the Branch Bank and Trust building and its parking lot, a little more than $2 million an acre is as good a number as any.

The town is poised to spend $1,032,400 for the land, apparently regarding the building as worthy only of being torn down to make way for more parking, at least in the short term.

It appears the town's leadership expressed at least a measure of caution in approaching the purchase of the property listed as 33-37 S. Main St.

The land was listed originally at $2.5 million ($5 million-plus per acre), which the town rejected, as it did subsequent prices of $1.6 million and $1.567 million.

That's quite a drop in price, but then again, it's been a tough real estate market lately.

It seems a bit odd for the town to have bought land for an estimated 33 metered parking spaces within a toss of the baseball from the town's parking garage, which is almost never full. Then again, the town has made no secret of its desire for a new municipal building, and the possibility that it would end up on Main Street.

As Town Administrator Chris Schlehr noted last week, though, a new town building will have to wait until the economy turns around. When that happens, and based on the apparent strength of other businesses on Main Street, that could be sooner than later, and the town may well end up with a winning purchase.

These kinds of things, however, are hard to predict. If that weren't the case, no one would have ever lost money speculating in real estate. Let's hope for the sake of the taxpayers in Bel Air, the local real estate market has bottomed out and the town commissioners are making a shrewd purchase.

One way or another, only time will tell if it's a good deal.

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