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The Lewis Estates’ house is in limbo. COURTESY TOWNSHIP OF MONTCLAIR

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

As of this middle of this week the future of the historic Lewis Estates house — for sale for $10 or less — remained unknown.

A developer set a deadline of this Tuesday, Sept. 5, for qualified offers to be submitted for the mansion, which was designed by renowned Montclair architect Dudley S. Van Antwerp.

Jonathan Schwartz, a partner at BNE Real Estate Group of Livingston, said that his firm had sent out an email to all parties interested in the property at 44 Pleasant Ave. requesting “a certain amount of information” by Tuesday.

But Schwartz couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday morning about what happened. But his company had a long laundry list of information that it wanted from prospective buyers.

In late July the township put out a notice that the house, built in 1906 and once occupied by prominent African-American resident Aubrey Lewis, was for sale for $10 or less. But the offer wasn’t as appealing as it might have seemed at first glance, since it came with caveats, including that the buyer be willing to relocate the house within a quarter mile of its current location

In June BNE Real Estate won approval from the Township Planning Board to subdivide the Lewis Estates’ site and build eight houses on it. But as a condition of that approval, the real estate company had to offer the historic house for sale and relocation so it wouldn’t be demolished.

BNE Real Estate agreed to contribute a maximum of $10,000 toward the cost to move the house, but all other costs were to be taken on by the buyer.

The announcement said that purchase price “will be the best offer received” and that “the contract must be executed on or before Aug. 31.” It is unclear why BNE Real Estate appeared to have extended that deadline to Sept. 5.

Historic preservationists fear that the Lewis Estates house will not find a buyer and that it will end up being razed. Estimates are that it would cost at least $100,000 to relocate the house, and that it would be hard to find a new location for it within a quarter mile of where it sits now.

In order to qualify to buy the home, prospective buyers had to provide BNE Real Estate with their name, address and contact information, with the name provided being that of an individual purchaser, not of a corporate entity.

Possible purchasers also had to submit proof of both a bona fide location where they intend to move the structure, which must be within a quarter mile of its present location, as well as their ability and plan to relocate the structure on or about Nov. 1. The current ownership and contact information of the bona fide location also had to be submitted.

Would-be buyers also needed to present a statement about their experience in moving similar structures or written proof that they have spoken to a company with experience moving similar structures.

The purchaser and moving company are also required “to provide the appropriate insurance coverages with limits customary for a transaction of this size and scope,” according to BNE Real Estate. It said that coverage must include general liability, umbrella liability, inland marine, property, structure movers cargo and auto.

In addition, the purchaser and moving company must indemnify BNE Real Estate and the township.

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