GSA: Federal building to go back to auction after third bidder backs out

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The former federal courthouse building is at 339 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The former federal building in Cape Girardeau will go back on the auction block by the end of next week, now that three of the top bidders in an online auction have backed away from their offers to buy the building at 339 Broadway.

The General Services Administration confirmed Tuesday that the third-highest bidder withdrew an offer of $460,003 last week, following in the footsteps of the top two bidders who dropped out last month.

"It's unfortunate a deal couldn't be finalized, but we remain optimistic that we'll be able to sell the building," said GSA spokeswoman Angela Brees.

The first two bidders -- who offered $625,000 and $615,000 respectively for the 44-year-old building on Broadway -- decided they didn't want the building for unspecified reasons, Brees said, despite the fact that it would cost them each their $25,000 deposit.

The third bidder attempted to negotiate the price down, even though that bid was nearly $440,000 less than the GSA's original $900,000 asking price. Negotiating isn't permitted after a bid has been made, Brees said.

"We understand it's a tough market right now, and that sellers and buyers don't always agree on what a building is worth," Brees said. "Our goal is to keep moving forward, balancing what is in the best interest of the U.S. taxpayer while also ensuring the building remains a valuable asset to the community."

The auction will reopen by the end of next week at www.gsa.gov, and the GSA intends to broaden its marketing area, perhaps from just the major Missouri metropolitan areas into places like Memphis, Tenn.

During the last auction, the GSA spent about $4,000 on ads and signs. They intend to use some of the same signage, but will advertise in other markets that have yet to be determined, Brees said.

The GSA kept the $25,000 deposits of the first two bidders, but the agency responsible for unloading surplus government buildings doesn't typically keep the deposit of the third, she said. The GSA doesn't release the name of bidders until a sale closes.

Still, this typically isn't how an auction is supposed to go.

"It does happen -- bidders back out," Brees said. "We just sold a building in Kansas City that went through several auctions. ... I won't say it's usual, but it does happen."

One party that will be at least considering participating in the auction is the Cape Girardeau County Commission. The commission, which had its original offer rejected before the auction opened, is interested in buying the building to move county offices from the Common Pleas Courthouse.

The commission authorized Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy to buy the building, if it could be had at the right price. The commissioners have been mum on whether they were one of the four total bidders who made offers on the building.

Tracy wouldn't say Tuesday whether the commission would make a bid during this auction.

"I will say that we have not walked away from it," Tracy said. "Right now, I don't have a whole lot to add to that."

When asked if it's been frustrating to watch a situation become borderline bizarre, Tracy said this: "That would be a good story, but that's not one we can write today. So I've got to go with no comment."

But 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell said the commission "without question" is still interested in the two-story vacant building. The plan calls for relocating county offices from the aging Common Pleas Courthouse for three-to-five years while a new county courthouse can be built to consolidate all county offices, Purcell said.

"Clearly, the outline is this is a short-term solution to address immediate needs," Purcell said. "I would say we will continue to pursue the facility as long as we are able to acquire it at a savings to the citizens."

Some have suggested that the GSA forego a new auction and simply re-enter negotiations with the county. But Brees said that the GSA is prohibited from going back a step in its disposal process unless it completely starts over.

The GSA has been going through the disposal process for several years. The first step is to determine if government buildings are needed for public use such as a homeless shelter, which brings to mind the Rev. Larry Rice's unsuccessful effort in 2009 to get the building for such a shelter.

Negotiating with local governments is the next step in the disposal process, which saw the GSA reject the county's bid, though Purcell has said it was sizable. Finally, the building goes up for online auction as many times as the GSA feels it has a chance to sell it for a reasonable price, Brees said.

"So we can't go back and negotiate with the county now," Brees said. "We'd have to start completely over and I don't think we've reached that point."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

339 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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