Friday, November 21, 2014

Group plans to sell former Sears to boost development

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 2/13/2013

The former Sears building at 221 S. Main St. in downtown Ottawa could be put up for lease or sale in the near future, the executive director of Franklin County Development Council told Ottawa city commissioners Monday.

During his quarterly report, Jeff Seymour told commissioners FCDC, which has joint ownership of the building along with the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, would like to use its share of money generated from the sale of the building to enlarge the county’s economic development war chest.

The former Sears building at 221 S. Main St. in downtown Ottawa could be put up for lease or sale in the near future, the executive director of Franklin County Development Council told Ottawa city commissioners Monday.

During his quarterly report, Jeff Seymour told commissioners FCDC, which has joint ownership of the building along with the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, would like to use its share of money generated from the sale of the building to enlarge the county’s economic development war chest.

Roger Johnson, a Lawrence investor who has owned several properties in Ottawa, agreed to donate the building to the two entities through the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation — if the Chamber and FCDC agreed to pay the building’s 2012 property taxes, a commission to his Realtor and any closing costs associated with the transaction.

“It cost us approximately $30,000,” John Coen, the Chamber’s president and chief executive officer, said in a recent interview. “The county has the building valued at about $300,000, so we looked at this as a really good opportunity for both organizations.”

The Chamber and FCDC took possession of the building in late December.

Because the Chamber and FCDC received the building at such a discounted cost from its appraised value, Seymour said, the organizations are hoping to reap the benefits of a sale that could generate a hefty return.

The organizations would like to move the building quickly, Seymour said, because every month the FCDC has to set aside funds to pay property taxes on the building, money is taken out of its economic development fund. He told commissioners FCDC currently has $200,000 in the bank.

Gene Ramsey, city commissioner, asked Seymour if the organizations had considered partitioning the 8,000-square-foot building into two spaces. Ramsey said the building, one of the newest downtown, is in a prime location for a retail business or businesses. When Ottawa’s JC Penney building burned in 1992, it took out three buildings, and the former Sears building later was constructed on that site at 221 S. Main St.

Seymour agreed with Ramsey that it was a “nice building” and that it was in a good location. But he did not rule out other possible uses for the building. He said the fate of the building would be the decision of the two organizations’ boards.

“I can tell you all options are still on the table at this point,” Seymour said.

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