School appraised at #036;135K

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 21, 2005

An independent appraiser has determined that the fair market value of the Thomas Jefferson School is $135,000, significantly less than the city’s assessed value of the property.

The value of the downtown property, which the city could sell to developer Mickey Garcia at tonight’s Suffolk City Council meeting, is $200,000, said Norfolk appraiser John C. Harry III. But that value is driven down by the estimated $65,040 it will cost to remove lead and asbestos from the building.

Director of Capital Programs Management Gerry L. Jones, in a June 17 memo to City Manager R. Steven Herbert, said the cost of the asbestos abatement could be up to $500,000.

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Harry, in a June 17 report to the city, appraised the 16,260-square-foot schoolhouse at $54,780 and the .6 acres of land for sale at $80,220.

In contrast, the city has assessed the building at $235,100, said Sid Daughtrey of the assessor’s office. The two acres the school sits on is assessed at $422,100; a separate assessment has not been done on the .6 acres being sold with the building, he said.

Garcia, who is planning to invest more than $2.4 million into converting the 1912 school into 10 upscale condominiums, offered the city $105,000 for the site, according to city documents.

He has also asked the city about buying .11 acres of adjacent city property for $35,175 to build carriage house-style garages.

Garcia, who was one of three developers to respond to the city’s request for proposals last spring, has declined to discuss his project until after the council’s decision.

Mayor Bobby L. Ralph would not discuss Garcia’s proposal or the others that came in for the site, saying the information is confidential because city lawmakers have not made a decision.

Dennis Craff, the city’s communications director, was not familiar with details of the other proposals. However, he said he had been advised that Garcia’s offer for the site was the highest of the three.

Herbert touted Garcia’s proposal in a July 18 memo to the city council.

&uot;As we have discussed with you in the last two City Council meetings (closed sessions), the proposal determined to be in the best interest of the City is clearly that of Garcia Development, LLC,&uot; he wrote. &uot;Mr. Garcia’s proposal is consistent with the City’s Downtown Initiatives Plan and will complement the investment and improvements currently underway at the adjoining Suffolk Cultural Arts Center.&uot;

The sale of the property catapulted into the public spotlight last month after some council members questioned whether the city was selling the dilapidated building at too far below its assessed value.

The council could vote on the sale of the Jefferson school after Wednesday’s hearing, which is legally required for the sale of any surplus public property, said City Attorney C. Edward Roettger. The sale must be approved by six of the council’s seven members.