Former federal building back on market with $1 million price tag

Thursday, May 31, 2012
The Federal Building in Cape Girardeau (Fred Lynch)

The Cape Girardeau County Commission has taken a pass -- at least for now -- on an offer from the new owner of the former federal building to sell the high-profile city downtown property for $525,000.

RDRH Holdings Inc. president Majid Hemmasi said the county's decision has prompted him to put the 45-year-old Broadway building back on the market with an asking price of $1 million for all other comers -- nearly $675,000 more than he paid for it.

If the county is interested, the building is still available, Hemmasi said Wednesday from his offices in Austin, Texas.

"But we cannot sit down and keep the building vacant, so we needed to do something," he said.

Hemmasi on Tuesday hired Cape Girardeau real estate broker Thomas M. Meyer to handle the sale. Meyer said he was comfortable with the asking price, considering the former courthouse's architecture and size. After a recent top-to-bottom tour, Meyer said, he was amazed at the quality of the building and how well preserved it is. Any updating to the structure would be minimal, he said. To build a similar building today would cost $800 to $900 a square foot, Meyer said.

"It's built like a bomb shelter," Meyer said. "It's just amazing."

Meyer will market the building from the local to the international level, he said, though he said a timeline for a sale is impossible to predict. Meyer also said he has a history of selling unique buildings, such as the former Louis J. Schultz School and the Marquette Hotel.

"I'm moving full force ahead with the same idea that there's a buyer out there and that it would be for the betterment of the community," Meyer said.

But Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger said the $1 million price tag is too high, setting up what he called a possible "worst-case scenario" in which the building could sit empty for years until a buyer is found. The news was frustrating, Rediger said, especially in light of the construction of a streetscape along Broadway and Isle of Capri's new $125 million casino.

Rediger pointed out that the market price was established when Hemmasi himself bought the building for $325,015 from the General Services Administration at its second online auction.

"He didn't bid $1 million on it," Rediger said. "Nobody bid $1 million on it. To me, it's a huge problem for the city. It is my worst-case scenario that I worried about all along. ... It will be a complete eyesore to our Broadway streetscape. There is no market for that building at $1 million. I guess you know how frustrated I am."

Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said the commissioners have postponed the decision on the federal building until an architect takes a look at whether it makes sense to include it as part of the long-range plans to build a consolidated courthouse to replace courthouses in Cape Girardeau and Jackson. The county is asking for architectural firms to submit request for services by June 30 to look at the Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape Girardeau and the county courthouse in Jackson. They will also look at building a new consolidated courthouse to replace those and possibly how the former federal building could serve as a stopgap measure until a new courthouse is built.

No leasing

But Tracy ruled out leasing the federal building, saying the county has a funding stream to buy buildings but not lease them. The building has also become less attractive to the county, he said, considering that a partnership to share space with Cape Girardeau municipal offices fell through and a plan to create more parking near the federal building didn't pan out.

"The whole impetus for us buying that building hinged on us working out a deal with the city so they would basically reimburse the county, then it would be a win-win for both of us," Tracy said. "Everybody would have their place when the music stopped."

The Cape Girardeau City Council had been considering such a partnership for a new city hall but backed out when officials couldn't agree on how space would be shared. Under the proposal, the city would buy the building from the county after the county vacated it in favor of its new consolidated courthouse. But Rediger said Wednesday the council could not bind future city leaders to buying a building at the direction of the county.

Rediger said he's told Tracy that several times.

"He still kind of leans on that -- that the city should bail them out when they decide to leave -- and we just can't do that," Rediger said.

The commission also decided not to buy a nearby building along Broadway to convert into additional parking spaces, Tracy said. But he wouldn't rule out that the county could buy the building at some point after the architect finishes the report. But he said they would only do that if it makes economic sense. He also would not rule out limping along with the current courthouses until a new one could be built.

The price was also a concern for Tracy, he said, even at the reduced rate. He was troubled that Hemmasi had plans to sell the building to the county for $200,000 more than he paid for it without making any improvements. Tracy said repairs need to be made to the building, including the roof. Tracy estimated a complete overhaul could cost as much as $1 million on top of what the county would pay for it.

"It's like when somebody gives you a puppy," Tracy said. "They may give it to you for free, but it's not really free."


Pertinent address:

339 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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