News Column

Scranton developer submits $150,000 bid to buy vacant Watres Armory

July 9, 2014

By Jim Lockwood, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

July 09--The fourth time was the charm.

After three failed attempts at luring a buyer of the vacant Watres Armory in Scranton, the state finally reeled in a bid from a real estate investor who owns apartment buildings downtown.

DFM Properties of Scranton submitted the high bid of $150,000 by Tuesday's deadline, topping an offer of $123,000 submitted from another firm, JD&B Inc. of Scranton, according to Troy Thompson, a spokesman for the state Department of General Services.

DFM Properties, owned by Don Mammano Jr., a Wayne County property investor, last year bought a four-story, 32-apartment complex along Oakford Court and an adjoining commercial building at 317 Linden St. In 2007, Mr. Mammano bought the four-story former Hoban Restaurant Equipment building at 136 Franklin Ave., and had said in a Times-Tribune article earlier this year that he planned to create 15 apartments on the upper floors of that structure this summer.

Efforts were unsuccessful Wednesday to contact Mr. Mammano about his plans for the armory.

"I believe it's up in air. As far as I know, he really hasn't made up his mind," said John Verscharen, a real estate coordinator for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs involved in selling the armory.

It could take several months until a sale of the armory to DFM is completed, Mr. Verscharen said.

Tuesday's bidding round was the fourth attempt by the state to attract a buyer for the historic 114-year-old armory, also known as the Scranton National Guard Armory. After failing three times to receive any bids, the state last month dropped the minimum price from $325,000 to $100,000.

The 102,000-square-foot armory on 1.5 acres at 900 Adams Ave., which resembles a castle and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has a fair-market value of $650,000.

Built in 1900-01, the armory has not been used by the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs for some time. Its sale is part of a larger program to sell several inactive Pennsylvania National Guard military institutions to generate revenue and put them back onto local tax rolls.

The first bidding round in November required a purchaser to preserve the armory's facade. For the second round in March, the state would have considered offers with or without an historic facade covenant, but with preference and a 20 percent discount price of $520,000 given to a buyer willing to preserve the exterior.

A third round on June 2 had the facade covenant eliminated and minimum price dropped to $325,000, but again came up empty. For the fourth bid round, the state reduced the minimum price to $100,000 and shortened the bid period in an aggressive effort to finally sell the armory.

Zoned for general commercial use, the landmark has a large drill hall, administrative space, classrooms, a dining hall and kitchen, multiple storage areas and about 20 parking spaces.

"There are no covenants, no restrictions on it, other than local zoning," Mr. Thompson said.

Contact the writer:, @jlockwoodTT on Twitter


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