GSA puts former federal building up for online auction

Thursday, May 19, 2011
The Federal Building in Cape Girardeau (Fred Lynch)

After rejecting the Cape Girardeau County Commission's latest offer, the General Services Administration is offering the former federal building to the highest bidder, meaning the highly sought-after property may not go to a government agency at all.

The auction at the GSA's website began Friday with a suggested opening bid of $750,000 to buy the two-story, 44-year-old building at 339 Broadway. Officials with the county and the city of Cape Girardeau on Wednesday still expressed interest in buying the building -- with both sides still open to a joint venture -- but they added that they would only do so if the price is right.

"It's come down to the fact that there has not been a meeting of the minds of what the GSA is willing to accept," Commissioner Jay Purcell said. "We've made offers, and they're just not accepting them."

The commission's latest offer came about two weeks ago, Purcell said, in an amount he described as substantial but refused to divulge.

"They flatly rejected it," Purcell said. "I was very surprised. But I think it's fair to say we're still interested and the option of working with the city is still open. We're just not going to pay too much. If we make another offer, it will be at a fair price that is good for the citizens."

The county commission and the Cape Girardeau City Council have been talking for months about a partnership to buy the building. The discussions centered on using the building as a new Cape Girardeau City Hall, as well as space to relocate certain county offices from the antebellum Common Pleas Courthouse.

The GSA had a deadline set for negotiating with government agencies by the end of April. The GSA closed what it calls the "disposal process," which gave first dibs to governmental bodies at a negotiated price, GSA spokeswoman Angela Brees said.

Before that, the Rev. Larry Rice and his New Life Evangelistic Center attempted to acquire the building as a homeless shelter, but his efforts were halted by a court decision in November. A federal judge sided with the Department of Health and Human Services, which had cited the center's lack of firm relationships with other service providers, an overly ambitious program and inadequate finances. Rice could not be reached Wednesday to comment on whether he intends to bid on the property.

Government agencies can still bid on the building along with everyone else, Brees said, but they will be treated the same as everyone else.

"They can participate, but now it comes down to price," she said. "There's no preference given to anyone anymore."

A closing date of the auction has yet to be determined, Brees said, but the auctions generally last for several weeks. The only stipulation on the 47,867-square-foot building is that its use has to be in compliance with zoning ordinances, in this case as commercial or office space. The gsa.gov website will post bid amounts but not who made them, she said.

Officials with the city and the county said they will monitor the bidding process and determine later whether they want to make another bid.

"We're going to watch it and watch the price," city manager Scott Meyer said. "We're going to wait and see what the process yields. It will either get to the point that we would decide there's a price that makes sense for us. If it gets above that, it will go to the highest bidder for a commercial use, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, either."

Commissioners will do the same and get together at some point to determine what they want to do, Purcell said.

"Obviously, what's done next will be driven by the GSA and what happens at auction," Purcell said. "That will drive our timeline now. But I think all our options are still open."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

339 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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