Auction for old federal building yet to draw a bid

Sunday, December 4, 2011
The former federal courthouse is at 339 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Not even a nibble this time.

The second online auction in the U.S. government's attempt to sell Cape Girardeau's former federal building is nearly a month old and not one bid has been placed.

That news, along with the fact that three bidders backed away during the first auction, has Mayor Harry Rediger worried.

"I'm really concerned now that the building may become empty and vacant for an extended period of time," Rediger said Saturday. "It's by far a very unusual situation."

The General Services Administration's most recent attempt to sell the building at 339 Broadway began Nov. 9 with the online auction at www.gsa.gov. While the first auction quickly drew interest -- and bids -- that has not been the case this time.

But GSA spokeswoman Angela Brees countered that auctions typically start out slow and then pick up once an auction close date is announced. Plus, the holiday season is not normally a time for a flurry of bids on any of the government-owned property the GSA is charged with unloading, she said.

The GSA intends to announce a close date within the next three to six weeks, she said, based on bid activity. Generally, she said, close dates are announced about a month beforehand.

The two-story, 47,867-square-foot building that was built in 1967 has drawn interest during this auction, Brees said. The agency has given a "handful" of tours and fielded a number of calls from prospective bidders, she said.

"So we know there's interest in the building," she said. "We're still hopeful we'll be able to sell it."

But Rediger remains dubious. He said he has watched this auction closely and he worries about a building that is located in a high-profile location, especially with the city's focus on revitalizing Broadway in time for the opening of Isle of Capri's new $125 million casino next year.

"It's a very important building and in my mind it should be a government building," Rediger said. "We just need to be able to work with GSA to find an answer for this. At this point, I'm very frustrated."

The city had been interested in a partnership with the Cape Girardeau County Commission to share the federal building for a mix of government offices, but an agreement could not be reached on how to share the space.

Since then, the commission has been the only public entity that has publicly expressed interest in the building for which the GSA had an asking price of $750,000.

The first auction drew top bids of $615,000 and $625,000. But all three top bidders backed away, the top two forfeiting $25,000 deposits. GSA does not identify bidders until a sale closes.

The commission is still committed to purchasing the building as long as it makes sense economically, commissioner Jay Purcell said. The plan, in general, would be to use the former federal building for certain county offices until a new county courthouse could be built in Jackson.

Commissioner Clint Tracy has been authorized to buy the building at the right price, but Tracy did not return calls Saturday seeking comment.

Before the first auction, the commission made "serious offers" that the GSA rejected, Purcell said. Purcell was not surprised, he said, to see that no offers had been made during this auction.

"I was very confident and felt like that if this was taken to auction, it would not bring substantial dollars that were offered before," Purcell said. "We're just going to sit back and wait. That seems the prudent thing to do for now."

Still, Rediger wants to make sure that the building is occupied by someone and doesn't become an empty blight on Broadway. He said he intends to contact the GSA this week to try to get some of his questions answered.

"I just want to know where they're heading with this," he said.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

339 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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