Developer buying former Lackawanna County Visitors Center for $1.25 million

Jun. 16—Real estate developer and convenience store chain owner Chris Gilchrist will purchase the former Lackawanna County Visitors Center at Montage Mountain for $1.25 million.

Commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday an agreement between the county and 2020 Montage Development LLC, a firm of Gilchrist’s, for the sale of the partly vacant Moosic property. The vote came more than a month after officials pulled from a May commissioners agenda a sale agreement with Hemingway Development Limited Partnership, which transferred to the county a 2.23-acre parcel that now houses the center for $1 in April 1999.

Hemingway, which originally planned to buy and then sell the property to a third party, ultimately connected the county with the buyer, resulting in the county’s direct sale to Gilchrist’s firm, county General Counsel Donald Frederickson said. Hemingway also agreed to release a covenant attached to the property that restricted its use, he said.

Efforts to reach Hemingway officials were unsuccessful.

Gilchrist — who owns 39 City Market and Cafes, Convenient Food Mart convenience stores and G&G Express Marts in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Carbon and Monroe counties, each of which is operated by an individual franchisee — said a law firm will move into the vacant portion of the former visitors center building on Glenmaura National Boulevard. He would not identify the law firm.

The center cost $3.1 million to construct and opened amid fanfare in November 2000. It originally housed the Lackawanna County Convention and Visitors Bureau, though the bureau hasn’t occupied the space in several years. Bright Horizons, a daycare center that leases part of the building, will remain, Gilchrist and county officials said.

Gilchrist also plans to purchase from Hemingway the two-acre lot next to the visitors center property. He intends to construct an up to 30,000-square-foot, three-story mixed-use building on the lot and said a medical tenant has expressed interest in eventually occupying space there, though he would not identify that potential tenant. He’s also considering putting a City Market in the planned building, he said.

{div}”We’re possibly looking at some retail and possibly loft apartments on the upper levels of the building,” he said.{/div}

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{div}Gilchrist is just beginning the planning phase of the mixed-use building and doesn’t expect construction to start for several years.{/div}

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{div}”We intend to have tenants in place and all of our permits in place before we build,” Gilchrist said.{/div}

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{div}His firm, 2020 Montage Development LLC, seeks $2 million in state {span}Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant funding to defray the cost of work on both the visitors center property and the lot targeted for development.{/span}{/div}

The developer and businessman has family ties to Montage Mountain. In the 1980s, his uncle, William Gilchrist, donated the land for the stadium now named PNC…

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