Temple President Peter J. Liacouras noted that all campus facilities devoted to athletics are on the west side of Broad Street, but he declined to say whether that would influence the university's decision.
He said talks would begin immediately on how the land would be used.
"It is obviously a superior site," Liacouras said. "Everyone is going to want a piece of it."
The plot is across Montgomery from McGonigle Hall, the university's 4,500- seat basketball arena. It is bounded by Montgomery, Broad, Cecil B. Moore Avenue and 15th Street. Temple occupies land on either side of Wilkie Buick, which is owned by Daniel H. Polett.
"Dan Polett told us a while back that if he ever decided to sell, he'd come to us first," Liacouras said. "We're very excited about it."
Said trustee board chairman Richard J. Fox: "We're buying a piece of property that took Dan 18 years to acquire. An opportunity like this doesn't come along very often."
Temple will finance the purchase partly through private fund-raising and will use a multimillion-dollar bond issue established in 1984, Liacouras said.
Liacouras said the university also planned to ask for state money to help finance the purchase, and might sell some unused Temple properties, including Temple Stadium in West Oak Lane.
Under the terms of the purchase, Wilkie Buick will rent the property for up to 18 months, at $40,000 a month, before leaving.
Polett, a member of Temple Hospital's board of governors, cited increasing costs of running the facility as the main reason for selling it.
"I was finding that the cost of maintaining the facility was no longer cost-effective," the silver-haired Polett said from his office yesterday. "I met with Peter (Liacouras) five years ago and told him that if I ever wanted to sell it, I'd come to him first. I've had a good relationship with Temple over the years."
Wilkie Buick, one of the city's largest car dealerships, sells Buicks, Subarus and GMC Trucks. It also sells used cars and operates parts and service divisions. A tire business operates independently on the site.
Polett, who joined Wilkie Buick as a salesman in 1960 and became owner in 1968, said he planned to keep his 125 employees and already was shopping for a place to relocate in Philadelphia.
Polett, 52, broke the news to employees yesterday afternoon.
"I have wonderful people," he said. "I assured them that I would be looking for a location in the city where we could move as a group."
Polett said he has told his employees several times over the years that the property eventually might be sold Temple.
Henry Ricco, Wilkie's top salesman who started there 20 years ago, certainly wasn't rattled by Polett's announcement.
"I've been under Dan's wing for a long time," Ricco said. "There has to be a good reason for his decision, because I've always found his decisions to be good."