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     as by repairing or remodeling.
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Ventnor shore house goes for $4.1 million bid

September 16, 2012|By Amy S. Rosenberg, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Remarkable Auction

VENTNOR, N.J. – With a bid of $4.125 million, Steve and Ilene Berger of Newtown Square won Saturday’s auction of an historic oceanfront seashore villa owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that played host to decades of vacationing and elderly priests.

The Bergers said they plan to preserve the former St. Joseph’s

Villa by the Sea as a family vacation compound for their children and grandchildren, retain longtime caretaker Fran McManus, and have the priests over for an annual party.

First off, a second story porch expansion, a total renovation – and a mezuzah, the ritual parchment placed on doorposts of Jewish homes.

“I feel very blessed to have this home,” said Ilene Berger, who blurted out an incremental $25,000 raise in the bid price to seal the deal for the property. “It’s a very spiritual house.”

Before the auction, Archdiocese representative Thomas M. Croke, who is handling various property distribution for the church as it tries to solve its financial crisis, said there were “lots of mixed feelings.”

Afterwards, archdiocese officials, who watched the auction stoically from the side, declined to comment and left immediately after signing papers with the Bergers.

It was not quite a steal of the former church property at 114 S. Princeton Ave., but the concensus among those present, including two developers who bid against the Bergers, was that it was a very good deal.

The 21,875-square-foot, 11 room Tudor style mansion was assessed at $6.2 million and commanded $114,500 in property taxes.

The Archdiocese, facing a $6 million deficit and a price tag of at least $11.6 million for its response to the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report on clergy sex abuse, was anxious to unload the property.

The auction, conducted by the Max Spann agency, took place under a tent in the property’s spacious back yard, with bidders facing what was once a shrine to the Virgin Mary, and onlookers from the Boardwalk peeping over the brick wall surrounding the yard.

The winning bid came after fierce bidding between the Bergers, local contractor Maurice Davis, and two developers who both were planning to tear the building down and subdivide the lot.

The official sale price was $4,537,500 after a 10 percent buyers fee. The terms of the auction required the Bergers to post 10 percent immediately and close within 45 days.

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