You may be looking for a house, but what about a city?
Ohio couple Saji Daniel and Shannon McGauley weren’t looking for a municipality either, but when an eccentric benefactor encouraged them to buy Foxburg, Pa., they went for it, according to the Wall Street Journal reported.
The couple first bought the town’s Clue-like mansion, RiverStone Estate, for $15 million from Art Steffee, a retired spine surgeon. In the months that followed, Daniel and McGauley purchased other holdings of Dr. Steffee in Foxburg, which were on the market for around $3 million.
These additional acquisitions, including local businesses and 50 residential lots, include much of downtown Foxburg.
The story is reminiscent of the Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek, where a once wealthy family moves to a rustic town that the patriarch bought as a joke and then becomes part of the community.
Dr. Steffee, after selling his surgical tools company for $325 million in 2008, bought the 1,200-acre RiverStone property for $5 million. But the doctor and his wife, Patricia, were unhappy with their luxurious estate in run-down Foxburg, calling the town center a “mud hole”, Steffee told the outlet.
Foxburg is located in economically depressed Clarion County along the Allegheny River, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. The 2020 census indicated that more than 20% of Foxburg’s population lives below the poverty line, and the median household income is $31,719.
Compared to Steffee’s multimillion-dollar mansion, the median home price in Clarion County is $123,343.
In the years following his purchase of RiverStone, Steffee spent approximately $6 million to build a pizzeria, hotel, winery, and other businesses in Foxburg.
At 86, Dr. Steffee no longer has the energy or the funds to continue revitalizing the small town. He spent several years looking for a buyer, but many people were scared off by the scale of the project.
Daniel, also the founder of a medical equipment company, has now taken on Steffee’s role as the de facto mayor of a small town. He and McGauley hired a consulting firm to devise strategies to reinvigorate Foxburg without relying on strip malls. Daniel told the outlet he wanted to keep Foxburg “picturesque.”