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Handful show up at auction of former Housing Development Fund building

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The auction of the former West Virginia Housing Development Fund building in downtown Charleston was greeted with one thing Thursday morning: Silence.

Only a handful of people showed up for the auction of the 109-year-old, 31,680-square-foot, four-story building at 814 Virginia St. E.

It was put on the market more than two years ago with an asking price of $1.1 million, which was set according to a 2010 appraisal.

Though Realtor Jay Goldman opened the bidding at $445,000 - $40,000 less than the minimum bid the Housing Development Fund had requested - no one attending the event stepped up to bid.

"We're certainly disappointed the building didn't sell today," said Erica Boggess, acting executive director at the housing agency.

The Housing Development Fund has been working out of a new Kanawha City headquarters since 2011. The agency's board voted earlier this year to go forward with an auction to try to get the property off their books.

"It's certainly not helping us to have an empty building and I don't think it helps the downtown to have a big empty building, either," Boggess said. "We're just not in the business of maintaining property."

Goldman, a former Charleston mayor and now president at realty firm Goldman Associates, said he was surprised no one bit on the minimum bid - especially since it covered all the furnishings and equipment still inside the building.

"I think the minimum bid's a giveaway," he said. "I don't know of any building of this quality in downtown Charleston that has all the furniture and is in move-in condition that you can get for $15 a square foot.

"People have bought buildings for more than that and torn them down," he said.

The Housing Development Fund purchased the property for about $1 million in the early 1980s. Though it was more than a century old, it had been modernized in the 1970s.

When Goldman Associates first bid to become Realtor for the property, it did note some upgrades were needed.

Those included replacing the current 40-year-old heating and cooling system, upgrading the electrical system and replacing the building's elevator. At the time, the firm estimated a buyer would need to invest $800,000 to $1 million to renovate and modernize the building.

However, officials factored those needs in to the original $1.1 million appraisal price.

"It needs paint and carpet and needs some work, but it's a good solid building and it served us well," Boggess said.

Goldman said he believed economic conditions were a factor in making buyers nervous about committing to new commercial property.

But he also said he thought some buyers either felt they wouldn't win the auction and didn't show up, or simply forgot.

"We've had several tours," he said. "Some of those people weren't here today, so I think the (comment) that will be raised is 'I wish I had been there.'"

Officials suspended the auction after about 10 minutes without any bids. Goldman said they could either restart later or work out a deal with one of the potential investors who had expressed interest before the auction.

Even if someone wasn't present for Thursday's auction, Goldman said they could still register to place a bid at a later time.

Boggess said she hopes a buyer will step forward in the next few weeks so the agency can finally get the building off its books.

"It'd be nice to get something out of there by the end of August or September," she said. "We're just really interested in getting the building sold."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-4836.



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