Parsons city commissioners will take a couple more weeks to decide the fate of a downtown building.
One commissioner said he is leaning toward selling the building to a nonprofit organization while another thinks it should be reserved for retail.
In August, the commission agreed to take bids on the former Curious Minds Discovery Zone building at 1810 Main St. with a reserve of $45,000. Although three parties expressed interest in buying the city-owned building, only one couple submitted a bid before the Aug. 31 deadline. Davis & Sterling Group LLC, owned by Brad and Jessica Rush, bid $41,200 for the building. Because it didn’t meet the reserve, the bid was rejected.
The commissioners decided to eliminate the reserve bid and seek proposals again. On Monday, commissioners learned three parties submitted proposals ranging from $20,000 to $40,000. They weren’t ready to choose the buyer, so the issue will be placed on the commission’s Oct. 19 agenda.
The commissioners aren’t basing the sale of the property solely on the highest bid. They are also considering the use of the property that would benefit the community the most.
The Rushes again proposed to buy the building and had the highest bid, although they lowered the price a little after the reserve was pulled. Now, they are offering $40,000. The Rushes already own a few buildings downtown, as well as Gia Rose Boutique, 1724 Main St.
Jessica Rush said on Monday that they have a couple of retail opportunities in mind for the store. The Rushes would renovate the upstairs apartment. All of the Rushes’ other buildings are full.
Commissioner Verlyn Bolinger, one of the interested parties in August, had declined to bid on the property when the reserve was in place, but now he is offering $35,000. Bolinger wants to move his Farm Bureau Financial Services offices out of the building he leases at 1805 Main into a building he owns. The 1805 Main building is for sale now, but Bolinger doesn’t like the price. Bolinger has stepped away from the commission table during discussions of the sale of the building, only partaking as a prospective buyer. He won’t vote on the sale of the building.
Parsons Area Community Foundation has proposed buying the building for $20,000. The foundation possibly had expressed early interest in the building after Curious Minds moved out in May. Jim Zaleski, economic development director, had said in earlier meetings that a nonprofit organization had expressed interest but then decided against it. He didn’t name the organization. The foundation wasn’t one of the three announced as having interest in the building in August.
Joan Vitt, the foundation’s executive director, told commissioners that although the nonprofit organization wouldn’t use the building for retail, the foundation has given 98 nonprofit organizations a total of $3 million over the last 26 years through donations.
“So while we’re not a retail business, we do give back to this area,” Vitt said.
Vitt said the Main Street building would allow the foundation to add two or three more offices and a conference room, which is not an option at its much smaller current location at 120 N. 22nd. The foundation has two part-time employees but could hire more, possibly adding a full-time position, Vitt said.
“It would be our privilege to be downtown. We want to be downtown so that we have the opportunity to have more visibility, have the opportunity for people just to be able to walk in and ask what’s going on and what is the foundation about,” Vitt said.
Zaleski said he sees no negative impacts of selling the building to the Rushes, although the current business climate is “extremely difficult for retail.” Bolinger said at the building he manages at the southwest corner of 18th and Main it’s been difficult to get retailers to lease space. The only impact on selling it to Bolinger would be another empty building on Main Street as he moves out of his current location. The downside of selling to the foundation is the lower price, but “$20,000 shouldn’t decide what goes in that building,” Zaleski said. He said the foundation would bring foot traffic to the downtown area.
“If I was pushed into a corner, I’d have somebody who I would recommend, but I feel they’re so close it’s not even fair to say that,” Zaleski said.
Commissioner Leland Crooks said he was leaning toward selling the building to the foundation.
“My gut says the foundation. That’s just what strikes me right off the bat. I don’t know if I can give a reason, but it’s just what sticks,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Shaw said he prefers to sell the building to someone who would use it for retail. The Rushes have the only plan that could lead to the space being leased for a retail business. Shaw said the vision for downtown was it being full of retail businesses, and each time a space is taken for a service-related business, that is one less retail space available.
Mayor Jeff Perez said all three options are good, so there’s no reason to look further.
“Another one would make my brain bleed,” Perez said.
All three agreed it would be best to consider the three options and wait for Commissioner Kevin Cruse to return. He was absent from Monday’s meeting.
The city had leased the building to Curious Minds Discovery Zone, an interactive children’s museum, for several years, but Curious Minds vacated the building in May to relocate to a facility it bought at 1610 S. 21st St.
The city bought the 1810 Main building and an adjacent building at 1806 Main from Bonnie Acklin for a total of $108,000. She had owned and operated Radio Shack at 1810 Main with her husband, Chuck, who died before Acklin sold the building to the city in 2008. The city started leasing the building at 1806 Main to Steve’s Lockout/Smelly Good Stuff in 2010, but the 1810 Main building remained vacant until Curious Minds began leasing it in 2012.