City Solicitor Shelley Smith says the administration will not entertain other bids for the Logan Square building that serves as headquarters to the regional Boy Scouts.
"The property is under agreement, just like your house would be if you had accepted an offer," Smith said yesterday, responding to a $1.5 million bid by real-estate investor and philanthropist Mel Heifetz. "We're not in a position to entertain other offers for the building at this time."
Heifetz, who made the offer Monday, said he acted out of frustration over a proposed settlement the city had reached with the Scouts after a legal dispute over the national organization's ban on gay members. Under the deal, the Scouts would pay $500,000 for the building at 22nd and Winter streets and drop a claim for up to $960,000 in legal fees.
The city has presented the deal - which still requires Council approval - as the best way to end an expensive legal fight. But the agreement has come under fire from gay-rights advocates. Heifetz said that if he was successful, he would donate the building to a charitable organization that does not discriminate.
Told of Smith's response, Heifetz questioned how the city could sell the building without opening it up for bids. Smith said the sale would be done through a quasi-city agency, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., meaning there would be no public bidding process.
Still, Heifetz said the fight wasn't over yet.
"I'm just one player in this whole thing, and we'll see how it plays out," he said. "I'm getting calls from all over the country from people who said that it's marvelous that I'm challenging the city."
The dispute began with a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 that upheld the legality of the national organization's ban on gay Scouts and troop leaders.
That put the organization in conflict with the city charter's ban on discrimination rooted in sexual orientation. In 2007, the city said the regional Scouts organization would have to vacate or begin paying $200,000-a-year rent for its previously rent-free headquarters, built by the Scouts 80 years ago on city-owned property.
The Scouts then sued the city, alleging a violation of First Amendment rights. In June, a federal jury agreed that the city had violated the Scouts' rights, raising the specter that taxpayers might have to pay their legal bills.